Something to Chew On

Aggressive product development, innovative packaging, and sophisticated marketing efforts fuel a strong meat snack category.
here’s nothing “dry” or ordinary about the meat snack category. From old-style, traditional beef jerky to lean, moist snacks --- the industry is faring well with new products inspired by consumer demand for convenience, freshness, and flavor innovation.
Chicago-based Information Resources places the meat snack category at $309.1 million, up 4.3 percent from the year prior, with category leader Oh Boy! Oberto ringing in sales of $68.6 million, followed by Slim Jim with $51.5 million in sales, and Jack Link’s $46.4 million.
Family-owned Oberto Sausage Co., Kent, WA, most recently dipped into new territory with the introduction of Oh Boy! Oberto Beef Jerky Crisps, crunchy oven-roasted snacks made with seasoned, lean beef. The first-of-its-kind snack – available in Original, Smokey BBQ, and Sweet Mesquite varieties, is designed to bridge the gap between beef jerky and traditional snack chips. Fittingly, they are distributed by snack giant Frito-Lay.
Top 10 Meat Snack Brands*
  Dollar Sales ($ millions) Dollar Sales %
Change Prior Year
Dollar Share Unit Sales
Unit Sales %
Change Prior Year
1. Oh Boy Oberto 68.6 1.6 22.2 14.2 -3.7
2. Slim Jim 51.5 -0.7 16.7 34.8 -0.1
3. Jack Links 46.4 -4.4 15 13.6 -6.9
4. Bridgford 23.2 -5.9 7.5 5.3 -10.2
5. Pemmican 21 -22.5 6.8 4.4 -26.9
6. Private Label 18.8 100.2 6.1 5.1 98.4
7. Old Wisconsin 14.7 20.5 4.8 5.4 21.1
8. Hickory Farms 7 0 2.3 1.6 6.2
9. World Kitchens 6 126.2 1.9 0.607 203.2
10. Oberto 3.8 21 1.2 1.2 9.2
Total Category 309.1 4.3 100 107.2 1.9
*Total U.S. supermarkets, drug stores, and mass merchandisers excluding Wal-Mart for the 52 weeks ending May 15, 2005.
Source: Information Resources Inc.
Rolled out nationally this month with full distribution slated for September, the Beef Jerky Crisps mark the first entry of meat snacks into the larger, broader snack chip category. “This easy-to-eat snack provides a new way for people to enjoy the great taste of lean beef snacks, from serving them in a bowl at a party, to eating them with a variety of dips,” explains Tom Campanile, president of Oberto Sausage Company.
The 2.2-ounce packages of Beef Jerky Crisps are high in protein with 13 grams of protein per 1-ounce serving and zero grams trans fat.
Year of the canister
Another notable trend in meat snack category is the move toward offering snacks in canisters with roomy interiors, adding convenience and freshness. Farmington, Hills, MI-based Pioneer Snacks, for example, started offering five of its flavors in 4.9-ounce “Road Ready” canisters, winning an award for packaging design at the National Association of Convenience Stores show last fall. Smoked Sausage, Teriyaki, Fired Up, Jalapeno, and Hunter Sausage varieties are available in the new resealable “bulk” cans, which are designed for on the go and fit into a car’s cup holder, a sports bag, or a backpack.
Omaha, NE-based ConAgra Foods recently introduced Pepperoni-flavored Slim Jims in single 13-inch sticks or 4-inch sticks in a 15-count canister. “We’ve been able to take that stick into a canister form [which the company now uses for multiple flavors], which has really opened the opportunity for us to get into other channels beyond C-stores,” notes Ann Mamer Lloyd, director of marketing, meat snacks. “We’ve now put sticks into canisters that moms can buy to bring into their household for snacking at all times of the day.”
Goodyear, AZ-based Poore Brothers, meanwhile, in May broke new ground of its own with a line of T.G.I. Friday's brand meat snacks – the first restaurant-brand snacks of its kind. “Retailer interest in these items has been very positive and we are excited about the introduction of these meat snack items,” says Thomas Freeze, president and chief executive officer of Poore Brothers. “The T.G.I. Friday's brand is recognized nationally and consumers associate their menu with high-quality and flavorful meat entrees. T.G.I. Friday's meat snack products will be the first restaurant brand in the category.” NP