By Erin Rigik, Associate Editor.
As customers continue to crave variety and new taste profiles, meat snacks manufacturers are staying on their toes, and providing c-stores with a range of new options to keep shoppers coming back for more.
The alternative snacks category is still dominated by meat snacks, the NACS State of the Industry (SOI) data for 2012 showed.
Meat snacks made up 60.4% of alternative snacks syndicated sales, which averaged $1,013 per store per month in 2012; a 13.3% sales change year-over-year, according to Nielsen syndicated convenience tracking data.
Meat snacks saw monthly sales of $913 with a monthly gross profit of $374, and a gross profit margin of 41%.
Matthew Paduano, vice president category management at Nice N Easy Grocery Shoppes, said that overall, meat snack sales are up less than 2% at the chain’s 81 locations in central New York. He expects sales to pick up in 2013.
“Sticks were down, but bags were up 8%,” he said. “Still. That’s kind of disappointing since new planograms rolled out late last year have given the sub category more prominence. We also did several promotions on the bags over the first half of this year, which I believe helped that growth.”
The competitive category has seen a lot of new products, flavors and manufacturers enter the category. That could be impacting sales.
“We have had a good run with meat snacks over the past several years, but I think the upsize in costs and downsize in weight might be catching up to manufacturers. For example, 3.15-ounces of jerky at $7.49 a bag equals $38 per pound. It’s pretty pricey if you look at it that way,” Paduano said. “Customers are still spending carefully.”
It’s no secret spicy is in as customers, especially in the Millennial generation, continue to crave bolder, hotter options, and meat snacks manufacturers have been quick to oblige. Other trends impacting the category include the flavorization trend, which is also hitting the foodservice and beverage categories, with manufacturers trying new varieties to excite adventurous shoppers.
Other products cater to a health-conscious consumer, and appeal especially to the female demographic, boasting “all-natural” or meats that are perceived as healthier, such as turkey. Even the macro trend toward locally grown and made products is finding a niche in the meat snacks category.
At the 2013 Sweets and Snacks Expo at McCormick Place in Chicago in May, the new products innovation room showcased a variety of meat snack varieties—from bacon and turkey jerky to seafood jerky—infiltrating the category.
“I think customers are gravitating more to new flavors than the brand name. Jack Link’s has always been strong for us. Customers are trying the new bacon and turkey flavors that have been introduced,” Paduano said. While he agrees the health trend seems to be poking its way into meat snacks with the introduction of turkey jerky, “the other popular item is the bacon jerky, so go figure,” he said.
But one thing is for certain, while customers continue to enjoy their tried-and-true favorites, they are also looking to experience something new. “There are some exotic meats out there like venison, gator and ostrich,” Paduano said. “Some local companies have carved out a niche in some of the stores that surround their manufacturing facilities. Lots of good homegrown products are available and it enhances our image in those communities by carrying local items.”
Raising the Flavor Profile
At the 10-unit, Torrance, Calif.-based Famima convenience store chain, dried meat snacks sales soared 240% versus the year prior, said Category Buyer Elizabeth Synn. Synn attributed much of this growth to the introduction of a relative newcomer to the jerky snack pack, the all-natural Krave brand.
“Our customers are looking for all-natural, gluten-free, better-for-you snacks, and Krave jerky offers that combination,” she said. “Women, in particular, might have a craving for a hamburger, but don’t want all the calories and fat, or they’re hungry, but can’t take the time for a whole meal. They can pick up some jerky or other dried meat snack to satisfy their craving for beef and overall hunger. With resealable packaging, they can also eat as much or as little as they want when they want, and the product will stay fresh until the next snack craving hits.”
Krave products are particularly appealing to women because of their interesting flavors, like pineapple orange, chili lime and garlic chili pepper, Synn said. The stores carry five of the eight Krave varieties, but, she noted, Famima is planning to introduce the other flavors in the near future.
“Men are creatures of habit; they know what flavors they’re going to buy when they come in,” she noted. “Maybe because women cook more, they’re more open to new flavors.”
During a soft launch of the line, Famima sold the 3.25-ounce bags of Krave jerky at a sale price of $5.99 instead of the usual retail price of $6.99. Synn said that the sale price effectively encouraged product trial and that sales have continued to rise even after the introductory price period ended.
Better for You Trending
Manufacturers are finding other ways to woo women into choosing their products over chips and cookies when mid-day hunger pangs strike. One way is by emphasizing the snacks’ “better-for-you” attributes.
Oh Boy! Oberto retooled its recipes to make them all-natural, a move, said the manufacturer, meant to assuage consumers’ concerns about artificial ingredients and preservatives.
Jack Link’s has dedicated a portion of its mostly Sasquatch-centric Website to its “Lighter Side” 100-calorie packs, and turkey strips, bites and jerky. Other parts of the site compare jerky with chips and pretzels (no surprise, jerky comes out the hero), and explain why beef jerky is a one of the “top college dorm snacks.”
One Denver meat snack company, Performance Enhancing Meat Snacks Inc., has even gone functional with an all-natural product called Perky Jerky, in beef and turkey varieties. The jerky is soaked in a marinade infused with guarana, a caffeine-containing tropical berry that is an ingredient in many energy drinks. Among its target consumers are “moms on-the-go” and desk-bound workers who suffer from mid-afternoon slump.
“Jerky manufacturers have done a good job of communicating that their products are a good source of lean protein by calling that out on their packages and promotional materials,” said Tim Cote, vice president of the Beaverton, Ore.-based Plaid Pantry chain. “That’s a big selling point for women.”
At Rockland, Mass.-based Tedeschi Food Shops, stick jerky makes up the majority of the dried meat snack business. The stores’ top 10 items are all sticks, and they make up 71% of the unit movement and 42% of the dollars in the category, said Category Manager Michael Turco.
At Texarkana, Texas-based E-Z Mart, meat snack sales grew 7.5% and units were up 4.1%, said Category Manager Danna Huskey. The stores’ top-selling SKUs last year were the Slim Jim Giant sticks. Huskey attributed much of that movement to “aggressive in-store promotions” featuring these products.
This year she is seeing more meat snack manufacturers emphasizing “natural” on their packaging. She is also seeing more bites and turkey products coming onto the market.