Sales of meat snacks – such as jerky, pork scratchings, salami sticks, kabanosy (Polish pork sausage) and biltong (a spicy South African dried meat snack) – are on the rise as consumers search for high protein, low carb snacks, reported the market researcher.
Value sales in the US grew over 6% between 2015 and 2016, following a 12% growth between 2014 and 2015.
Dollar sales of meat snacks at $3.3bn still lagged behind potato chips – ($8.2bn) in 2016 – but meat snack sales growth well surpassed that of potato chips (up 1.3% between 2015 and 2016).
IRI and Mintel data also pointed to volume growth of 11% in the UK, making meat snacks one of the fastest growing segments in the UK snack market, second only to popcorn; while, in Germany, consumers of meat snacks rose from 8% in 2012 to 24% in 2016.
According to Marcia Mogelonsky, director of Insight, Mintel Food and Drink, the trend driving the global meat snack market is the mounting interest in protein.
“The last time meat snacks were this popular was when the Atkins diet was so popular,” she told BakeryandSnacks.
“Meat snacks are perceived as healthy - especially new products with clean labels and more sophisticated positionings.
“I don’t think that was the case for first generation meat snacks but products such as those by General Mills’ Epic and Hershey’s Krave today seem to have positive health associations,” she added.
“Today, meat snacks are more sophisticated with flavors described more expressively and meats given a ‘pedigree’,” said Mogelonsky.
For example, flavors like Chardonnay Thyme Turkey Jerky, Carne Asada Chile Lime Beef Jerky, Cabernet Sauvignon Balsamic Blackberry Beef Jerky and Wilding’s Peking Duck Flavoured Duck Crackling leverage the ‘foodie ethos’ of the Millennial snacker, while buzz words like grass fed, gluten-free, GMO- and hormone-free feed the desire for naturalness.
The innovation of flavors spreads worldwide. In Germany, Houdek’s air-dried mini-salami is ripened with fine edible mould and refined with walnuts, while in Poland, Sokołów offers a range of kabanosy inspired by world cuisines.
The power of plants versus meat
Mogelonsky added the segment’s success is surprising in an era where plant-protein is headline news.
Mintel’s data shows US users of meat alternatives (62%) far outstrips those who consume meat snacks (42%), but younger snackers (18-34 year olds) are today embracing meat snacks in their adoption of the Paleo Diet, which follows the diet of our ancestors.
Paleo advocates the consumption of meat, fish and everything from the earth like fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds.
The diet was first mooted in 1975 and lived its heyday alongside the Atkins diet in 2003-4. It fell out of favour in the mid-200s but has been growing in popularity since 2014 as it promotes the return to what is perceived as less processed and more authentic.
The Paleo Diet also fits hand-in-glove with the gluten-free trend and the eschewing of any gluten-based products.
The new age of meat snacks
Paleo has given meat snacks a new lease on life, noted Mogelonsky, and manufacturers have responded by launching a number of products especially positioned for the ‘hunter-gatherers’ among us.
She believes the trend will continue to be strong “as long as consumers continue to look for more high protein snacks.”
Another reason for its longevity is Mllennials perceive smaller nibbles of meat more permissible than larger meals.
“This helps explain why Millennials transition between meat-free and meat snacks as part of a healthy lifestyle strategy,” she said.
Finally, the occurrence of smaller startups being gobbled up by major players continues to dominate the sector.
According to Mintel, with major companies like Hershey, General Mills and ConAgra holding significant stakes in producers like Krave, Epic and Hillshire Farms, what’s stopping other big players like Kellogg’s or PepsiCo making a similar move?
There are numerous startups about, like the Colorado-based Perky Jerky, South Carolina-based The New Primal LLC and Game On Snacks USA, that must be proving tempting.