What the rise of artisan jerky producers means for the meat snacks industry
- Jerky snacks are trending in the U.S. with sales growing 12.5% to $2.8 billion in 2015, according to IRI.
- The segment's popularity comes from the increased consumer demand for both snacks and protein-rich foods, particularly among millennials, according to the National Snack Food Association.
- Jerky has been around for centuries, but in the past decade, artisan jerky makers have threatened the market share dominance of major producers.
One option for major manufacturers has been to capitalize on the jerky trend by acquiring fast-growing meat snacks startups. Hershey acquired Krave jerky last year, Hershey's first meat snacks — and more importantly, non-candy — acquisition. General Mills recently announced its purchase of meat snacks producer EPIC Provisions, which will operate under the Annie's brand.
Artisan jerky producers are a concern for major manufacturers currently dominating the market. They're introducing innovations to a segment that hasn't changed much over hundreds of years, including better-for-you options and bold flavors. EPIC, for example, has created such flavors as bison bacon cranberry, beef habanero cherry, and lamb currant mint with jerky made with salmon, venison, and wild boar on the horizon.
Jerky can provide a dose of protein and nutrients, which consumers today deem healthy and functional, but it's not inherently healthy all the time (ingredients often include sodium, sugar, and additives like MSG and liquid smoke). Consumers don't always turn to jerky when they want a healthy snack, so manufacturers may look beyond this segment unless they find a way to tap into that market — perhaps through more artisanal acquisitions.