The acquisition of Iowa-based Grass Run Farms, which sources beef raised without antibiotics or added growth hormones, will help the business tap demand for clean-label, natural products.
“A lot of consumers have health concerns about what they eat, and grass-fed beef is just healthier,” Jack Link’s president Troy Link – son of Jack Link – told BakeryandSnacks.
Supply chain move
Link described the acquisition as a supply chain move. He added the company is excited to to offer 100% grass-fed beef products under Lorissa's kitchen and Grass Run Farms.
Grass Run Farms is a meat-focused company, and acquiring the business gives Jack Link’s access to high-quality meat, although Grass Run will continue to manufacture products including beef jerky, beef sticks and summer sausage.
Grass-fed beef is a limited resource in the US, said Link, adding there were even fewer USDA certified grass-fed brands.
"Grass-fed diets produce a much leaner, high-quality cut that's ideal for jerky," Link said. "For Jack Link's, our sources predominantly use a grass-fed diet, but because of of limited supply, often these sources supplement with grain when necessary."
And Jack Link’s own demand for grass-fed beef has increased with the launch of new brand Lorissa’s Kitchen, which began rolling out to stores in February.
The manufacturer is hoping the 100% grass-fed range will appeal to young female consumers who gravitate towards higher-end snack items, and has negotiated with retailers to get the brand merchandised in the healthy snack section.
Described by Link as offering a softer bite and smaller pieces, Lorissa’s Kitchen is gluten-free and available in four flavors: Korean barbeque beef jerky, ginger teriyaki chicken jerky, sweet chili pork jerky, and Szechuan peppercorn beef jerky.
Priced at $5.99 a pack, they are currently available in major grocers across the US, including Target, Wal-Mart and Kroger.
“All Lorissa’s Kitchen products are portable protein - they are low in sodium and have bold flavors,” Link said, adding that the range had been in development for a couple of years.
While Link says the business holds a 50% share of the $3bn US meat snack market – and has enjoyed 25 years of growth – the company will be looking to launches such as Lorissas’s Kitchen to help it maintain its share in a changing category.
According to IRI data for the 12 months to 27 December 2015, sales of Jack Link’s core jerky range fell 2.4% to $771.1m in a market up 5.5% by value. In contrast, sales of the Krave jerky brand, acquired by Hershey a year ago, grew 62.2% in 2015 - albeit from a base of just $20m.
Jack Link’s - which employs more than 4,000 team members in 11 countries - is also looking to increase its retail presence, and has plans in place to build a flagship store in Mayo Clinic Square in downtown Minneapolis.
Once it’s up and running, the 80,000-square-foot store will include an interactive retail space, a R&D center, as well as a bar restaurant where celebrity chefs will use Jack Link’s protein snack as their ingredients.
“I think consumers will enjoy interacting with our products,” said Link.