By John Lofstock, Editor
Estimates from Chicago-based Mintel Group, based on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey and other data, project solid growth for meaty snacks all the way through at least 2015, when they should top $1.3 billion.
The research firm reported last year that meat snacks and beef jerky consumption is concentrated among the core top-selling brands. Private label, their report said, does not have a strong presence in this segment. While regular-flavored meat and beef jerky products are the most popular based on usage, the research showed, teriyaki beats out more traditional flavors, including smoked, peppered and hickory—an indication, perhaps, that consumers would be receptive to more adventurous flavors.
The Mintel survey also found that the meat snacks and beef jerky market skews toward a younger audience, based on usage of the more popular brands.
Chris Clark, vice president of the Snack Food Association in Arlington, Va., said the group’s research shows that meat snack dollar sales, unit sales and volume all increased in some retail channels as of its latest tally.
“It looks like there is a lot more variety of flavors than existed not too long ago, especially for jerky,” Clark reported. The product category is also continuing to become more mainstream. “I think the market has expanded pretty significantly in other channels like grocery, where you didn’t see meat snacks so much before. You saw it in convenience stores, but I think even the traditional grocery has grown a lot. Even some of these alternative channels, whether it’s Home Depot or craft stores like Michael’s.”
There are, Clark added, important distinctions to be made between some meat snack products and others. “Pork rinds and beef jerky are very different products, have some different demographics and sometimes trend differently,” he warned retailers looking to grow the category. “Pork rinds have done very well, too. I think you see a lot of new products and flavors in pork rinds, particularly some hotter flavors, which I think may be more popular. Years ago, you may not have had a very spicy pork rind, but there now seems to be some innovations in terms of flavors.”
Promoting the Products
Promotions are another key component needed to effectively expand this category, but as Tim Cote, vice president of marketing for Plaid Pantries Inc. in Beaverton, Ore.—which operates 103 stores—noted, promotions have not changed dramatically over the years. In his own stores, meat snacks are featured on an endcap, a checkstand rack, a cooler-topper rack for 10-ounce bags and a few permanent mini wings. “The bottom line,” he said, “is multiple points of interruption for the category instead of only one dedicated location.”
That customer, Cote was quick to add, can be male or female, and varies in age. “There are products for everyone in the category, however not all products in the category are designed for all users.”
Huck’s Food and Fuel has been experiencing double-digit growth in this core snacking segment. Randy Adams, category buyer for 109 Huck’s Food and Fuel in Carmi, Ill., said Huck’s is experiencing strong growth in the meat snacks category overall. Jack Link’s serves as the chain’s category captain, providing Adams with the marketing data and merchandising expertise he needs to continue growing sales.
As a result, Huck’s has a solution of nuggets, sticks and steaks in all sizes and price points to cater to the core 18-34-year-old demographic, but still offers a wide variety to attract new customers. Also boosting Huck’s sales is where it is positioning the category. The new meat snacks displays are located just in front of the soda fountain at each of its stores. This helps drive
business with customers of all ages.