The Brooklyn-based brand - which recently unveiled quirky new packaging following a $3-5m capital raise to fuel its aggressive expansion plans - is part of a new wave of entrepreneurial brands that have helped turn the meat snacks category from lukewarm to red hot by changing perceptions of quality, nutrition and taste.
While success in the jerky category is no guarantee of success in meat sticks, co-founder Scott Fiesinger is confident that Field Trip can bring incremental growth to the brand and the meat sticks category by appealing to a new set of consumers as well as shoppers already familiar with Field Trip jerky.
“We’ve actually been working on the sticks for two years, however with such significant growth in our jerky business we didn't have the time to parallel process this launch as we wanted," he told FoodNavigator-USA.
“We’ve also spent a lot of time researching the category and talking to buyers and consumers and we’ve worked very hard to tick all the boxes when it comes to responsibly sourced meat and good nutrition, and yet keep an approachable price point. In the first instance we think that shoppers that know our brand might give Field Trip sticks a try whereas they probably wouldn’t go for a Slim Jim.”
More protein, less fat, less sodium
The sticks – which will hit stores in late October - come in five flavors: Original sea salt (beef), Maple BBQ (pork), Cracked pepper (turkey), Spicy jalapeno (beef/pork), and Pepperoni (beef/pork) with an MSRP of $1.49-$1.99/ stick.
Soy-, dairy-, and gluten-free, they are higher in protein and lower in fat and sodium than traditional meat sticks, with each 28oz original beef stick containing 90 calories, 8g protein, and 220mg sodium, whereas the equivalent weight (28g) of Slim Jim Original (sold in 32g sticks so we’ve adjusted the figures accordingly) has 140 calories, 6.1g of protein and 481mg sodium.
While the ‘craft’ segment of the US meat snacks category grew an impressive 26% vs a still-respectable 8% for mainstream brands in the year to Feb 20, 2016 (Nielsen data, all outlets combined plus c-stores), Field Trip notched up growth of 250% over this period driven by significant distribution gains as well as good velocity in existing accounts.
The brand, which was launched in 2010 and is now in 30,000+ stores including Starbucks, CVS, Target and Kroger, has also struck deals with a group of beverage industry distributors in the northeast, notably Big Geyser, which was instrumental in the growth of Vitaminwater and Smartwater but more recently has helped snacking companies such as Deep River Snacks boost their reach
We’ve already pre-sold between half a million and a million dollars worth of the sticks
The meat is antibiotic-free, crate-free, and GAP-certified with no added hormones, while the beef is grass-fed, the turkey is free-range and the pork is veg-fed, adds Fiesinger, who says Field Trip notched up revenue growth of 250% in 2015, and expects to do the same again in 2016.
“We’ve already pre-sold between half a million and a million dollars worth of the sticks [into the trade] already, so we’re super-excited about this launch; the category is growing fast [Nielsen data shows an 11% rise in meat stick sales in c-stores in 2015] and there is definitely room for new players.
"There are a lot of small, local brands entering, but what’s interesting is that there are not that many brands that have a stick and a jerky line and not that many national brands [apart from more mass market players such as Slim Jim and Jack Links].
“We looked at doing a meat bar but it didn’t feel like the right path for us; the bar market is so saturated and buyers we talk to say we’re just overloaded. Consumers stand in front of the shelf don’t even know what they’re looking at, there is so much there.
"Similar to the jerky category when we entered it, it was important that we shake things up in a more mature market. The meat bar market, while on a steady uptick, is still a very small segment [$30m] relative to the meat snack category. Furthermore, the brands that are participating in the segment have already introduced really great options.
"The meat stick segment will end 2016 in the $500-$700m range and is dominated primarily by just a few extremely large mainstream companies. In our opinion, there is an enormous opportunity for improvement by offering both responsibly sourced and better tasting options."