Chicago — The proliferation of meat snack suppliers at the Expo is mirrored by consumer demand, as sales grew at more than double the rate of the overall food market, driven by protein seeking shoppers, new flavors and alternative meat options, suppliers told Candy & Snack TODAY on the show floor.
White meat varieties, which have a healthier perception among consumers, are anticipated to help continue to move the market, according to Eugene Kang, of Country Archer Jerky Co.’s sales and marketing department.
Stephen Oberto, associate brand manager for Oberto Brands Corp., noted chicken jerkies make an excellent canvas for new flavors, such as spicy Buffalo, adding: “Bacon jerky has also been one of the strongest performers, in terms of new flavors.”
Leveraging popular flavors is a good way to grow interest in the segment, but pegging down coming trends is a challenge. Anton Pacula, plant manager for Walnut Creek Foods, makers of Uncle Mike’s Meat Snacks, said that a few years ago jalapeño was on trend, but was eventually replaced by chipotle, which has now been overtaken by sriracha.
Although sriracha is the current “it” flavor, he doesn’t expect it to have staying power. “Give it a year or two and something will replace sriracha,” he added.
While new flavors draw consumers in, the best performers continue to be original, teriyaki and peppered products, Oberto said, adding: “Those three flavors are the chocolate, vanilla and strawberry for this segment.”
Country Archer’s Kang said the company provides the traditional favorites, but takes those “contemporary flavors and push them into the next level.” He gave for example the company’s teriyaki items, which are made using authentic teriyaki from a reputable manufacturer.
Further, he said influences from Mexican culture will also impact flavor trends, as well as rise in the pork-based products.
Oberto noted traditional jerky is out performing sticks because of the health aura. “It’s disproportionate; jerky is growing by double digits, while sticks are up five to six percent,” he said. “Consumers see jerky as a real snack that isn’t heavily processed and has a simple ingredient list.”
The protein content of meat snacks is also helping drive sales, according to Thanasi Foods, LLC President Justin Havlick, makers of Duke’s brands jerky. He noted this has helped the items perform particularly well in sporting good stores and other health-focused alternative channels.
While jerky has been outperforming sticks, Walnut Creek’s Pacula sees room for growth in both subsegments, as each has the potential to offer consumers items with clean labels and short ingredient lists. “The best suppliers in the industry are listening to what consumers want and offering those products,” he added.