Brian Levin, CEO and founder of the meat snacks brand, contended the jerky market has a 58% female consumer base, although its traditionally been 80% dominated by males.
“That’s why the [jerky] market for years has gone after the male audience, evidenced by randy macho man savage snap in a Slim Jim,” Levin said.
However, he noted that Perky Jerky was not seeking out female consumers alone, but those “who are not only buying for their own active lifestyle, but a big heavy consumption in the family.”
“Women have always enjoyed jerky products,” Levin added. “Our products have a more tender profile, and we’ve had a lot of success in turkey [jerky], which is a leaner protein and zero fat.”
Launching ‘next-gen’ beef stick
The jerky market’s evolution resembles that of the craft beer industry, Levin said. The sector can be divided into legacy brands, such as Slim Jim, Jack Links or Oberto, and more handcrafted "next-gen” brands.
“Obviously, if you’re over 30, the first thing that comes to mind is Slim Jim, but that’s certainly not the brand the Millennials would associate with health snacking,” Levin said.
Perky Jerky has therefore decided to launch a beef stick made with 100% grass-fed beef, which it will be unveiling at the upcoming Sweets & Snacks Expo in Chicago, US.
The product, which will retail for $1.99, will be available through national grocery chains like Kroger and Safeway, and larger retailers like Target, in the near future.
Facing competition from major brands
Levin believes the jerky category is one of the most competitive in the snack food industry because the opportunities are so vast.
“I like to joke that every guy with a man bun in Brooklyn has been creating a jerky brand that they're trying to push in Whole Foods,” he said.
However, most of the competition that keeps small brand owners up at night is coming from the major companies trying to create what they consider to be authentic brands, Levin argued.
For example, a little over a year ago, Jack Links acquired Iowa-based Grass Run Farms, which sources beef raised without antibiotics or added growth hormones, to tap consumer demand for clean label and natural products.
At the same time, the meat snack giant created Lorissa’s Kitchen to capture female audiences.
And earlier this year, Slim Jim’s owner ConAgra acquired Thanasi Foods, the parent company of Duke’s Meat Snacks.
“Everyone is shifting to be a natural brand or ‘natural formulation,” Levin said.