Open Wide for Jerky

April 03, 2015

Jerky’s new artisanal image gives retailers premium sales opportunities, sharper appeals to health-driven shoppers. 

Originally published in the weekly e-newsletter Facts, Figures & the Future.

Food retailers thinking of jerky only in its classic mode could miss out on a timely, dramatic and lucrative category refresh.

  • Jerky, for one, is rich in protein when Americans can’t get enough of it.
  • Jerky is a portable, no-mess snack when people require convenience.
  • Innovative formulas from a bevy of suppliers create distinct segments of beef, pork, game and seafood (deer, elk, buffalo, salmon, alligator) that give retailers the potential to stretch transaction size and develop premium price tiers. Game and seafood often have better nutritional profiles than beef.
  • Newer flavor combinations and seasonings broaden taste appeals to more men, women and children. Some examples: Slim Jim’s maple-flavored and hickory-smoked bacon jerky sticks; Krave’s basil citrus turkey and sweet chipotle beef jerky; Buffalo Bob’s alligator and beef barbecue jerky; and Tanka buffalo meat bites with cranberries, habanero, jalapeno, red and black peppers. 

To draw in Millennial and Gen X female health-driven shoppers, marketers position jerky to sustain women’s own demanding lifestyles and those of other highly active household members, says Facts, Figures & The Future (F3). Marathoners eat jerky - why not women? Since women are increasingly the primary breadwinners and purchase decision makers for households, jerky marketers that win them over could reap vast incremental growth. This differs from appealing largely to men in convenience stores.

Hershey couldn’t resist the jerky sales opportunity. It bought the Krave brand this winter - to diversify from exposure to cocoa prices, offer consumers a protein-rich portfolio, and acquire a younger brand when much of what Hershey sells is mature. When Hershey announced its deal, it noted “the overall meat snacks category was growing at a compound annual growth rate of about 10 percent from 2010 to 2014” and “premium jerky [was] the fastest-growing sub-segment of the estimated $2.5 billion U.S. meat snacks category.” 

IBISWorld projects category growth through 2019. Its analyst Antal Neville says, “Product innovation has largely driven revenue growth in the past five years...Major players in the industry have...launched products emphasizing the artisanal nature of jerky products....[Brand marketers] will likely experience greater competitive pressures from alternative snack food providers.”

Therefore, says F3, it will be up to brands - and supermarkets pitching their private labels - to differentiate jerky as a healthier choice than many snacks, and even as a meal substitute.

Data provided to F3 by IRi show significant dollar and unit sales gains in both dried meat snacks overall and the jerky category, for the 52 weeks ended December 28, 2014 in total U.S. multi-outlet (supermarkets, drug stores, mass market retailers, gasoline/convenience stores, military commissaries, and select club and dollar retail chains): Dried meat snacks dollar sales rose 12.56 percent to $2.60 billion on a unit increase of 8.67 percent. Jerky dollar sales grew 12.62 percent to $1.41 billion on a unit gain of 8.83 percent. In a recent webinar on snack foods, the Chicago-based market research firm IRi recognized dry meats as an indulgent winner.