No Beef About Meat Snacks

Defined by protein, United States, Asia drive growth, untapped potential of meat snacks

ARNHEM, Netherlands-- Protein brings with it the perception of health. And for convenience-store retailers, this magic ingredient is helping boost meat snack category growth.

According to Netherlands-based Food Ingredients First’s Innova Market Insights data, nearly 15% of global meat snacks launched in the 52 weeks ending April 2015 used protein claims, rising to more than 50% in the United States.

“Even prior to the emergence of this enhanced interest in protein, the meat snacks market was showing good growth globally,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova Market Insights. “[It reflects] the rising demand for more substantial snacks suitable for eating on the go.”

With a few exceptions, including the United States and South Africa, the market remains relatively undeveloped. Launch numbers remain small in terms of meat snack introductions as a whole, with just 5.5% of the global total in the 52 weeks ending March 2015.

Asia dominated activity with more than 60% of introductions, mainly a result of the large number of traditional-style meat snacks being launched in China. North America, primarily the United States, took second place ahead of Europe, where, despite the large number of countries and cuisines involved, the relatively underdeveloped status of the market limited new product activity.

Fourth Place And Climbing

Meat snacks are the fourth largest savory snacks category in the United States after potato chips, tortilla chips and nuts/trail mixes. The market is dominated by jerky-style products and, despite being relatively mature, has shown good growth in recent years.

Manufacturers have updated their product ranges to focus on a healthier image, more convenient packaging formats and a greater choice of increasingly complex flavor options, particularly hot and spicy variants, often with an ethnic twist.

Indeed, there’s no shortage of new meat snack items that run the gamut from exotic to handcrafted and grass-fed beef processing, including:

  • Jack Link’s Korean BBQ Pork Flame-Grilled Jerky. Its flavor profile conjures the Eastern Asian-style cuisine. Finished over an open flame, the sweet pork flavor contrasts with double-toasted sesame seeds and caramelized brown sugar notes and incorporates hints of white onion and garlic.
  • Old Wisconsin. A true meat snack staple—old-fashioned and handcrafted with a hardwood-smoked taste—but with a twist with the introduction of its Fast Fuel Sausage Sticks and Bites.
  • Chomp Snack Sticks. It places an emphasis on the use of leaner grass-fed beef with Crankin’ Cran Chomps, made with spicy habanero peppers and healthy carbohydrates through cranberries.

And there’s likely more innovation ready to fill the pipeline soon if new opportunities are maximized. To that end, Innova Market Insights cites an ongoing interest in extending the use of different types of meat beyond beef and turkey, with launches including chicken and bacon products.

While the U.S. market is well-established and mature, the European market is much smaller, less developed and dominated by salami-style products rather than jerky, stated Innova Market Insights’ Williams.

It saw a highly significant development in 2014, however, with the divestment of Unilever’s market-leading Peperami and BiFi European meat snacks businesses to market leader Jack Link’s. The addition of Unilever’s business, incorporating two iconic brands, was “a huge leap forward, instantly taking Jack Link’s to leadership of the market and giving it a strong portfolio across both jerky and salami snacks,” the market researcher stated.   

With the underdeveloped status of the meat snacks market outside the United States, there are clearly further opportunities for growth, “particularly if the image of the products can be delivered as tasty, healthy, substantial and convenient snacks for all occasions, boosted by ongoing product and promotional initiatives,” said Williams.