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Sales of meat snacks are soaring, and as jerky transforms itself from guilty pleasure to healthy snacking option, the amount of varieties is exploding.
Amid a total snack food category exceeding $13 billion, meat snacks generated more than $383 million in sales for the year ending Dec. 19, 2015, according to Nielsen data. Their 14.5 percent growth in sales for that period was second only to popped popcorn, which grew more than 16 percent to just over $399 million, while much larger salty snack categories like potato chips and pretzels were flat.
Beyond its historic beef baseline, jerky and meat snacks are encompassing other meats and poultry, including turkey, which has made inroads into products sold in the front end and center store, as well as the refrigerated case alongside luncheon meats.
The meat snack category is growing due in part to an impressive body of scientific research that supports eating protein throughout the day,” said Keith Williams, VP of marketing and communications at the Washington, D.C.-based National Turkey Federation. “We have seen an increasing body of evidence that shows that protein consumption throughout the day can be more beneficial than at one occasion.”
Williams cited a study published in the Journal of Nutrition showing that in order to maintain healthy muscles, it is beneficial to evenly distribute protein consumption over a 24-hour period versus increasing the amount of protein consumption overall.
“The nutrition professionals we hear from are encouraging people to include adequate protein sources in all meals and snacks,” he said. “Turkey meat snacks are an excellent solution because they are portable, right-sized portions of high protein and come in a variety of flavors such as honey sriracha, basil citrus, chili lime, cracked pepper and teriyaki. They have gotten so popular that specialty food companies are making artisan-crafted versions. Now you can even find them in trendy coffee shops picking up a role as standard bearers for protein snacks.”
Driving retail sales
Many of the big turkey brands are working with grocery retailers on product positioning and shelf placement as well as freestanding displays to highlight the increased variety (of both types and flavors) of meat snacks available, Williams noted.
“Turkey brands are innovating in this category and branching out into other turkey meat snack products, including many versions of turkey jerky, meat sticks and snack mixes containing dried meats,” he said. “Shoppers will increasingly be able to find a wide variety of turkey brands and flavors of these products.”
Grocers rely on their in-house registered dietitians as well as resources at ServeTurkey.org for easy to display information on protein, nutritional information and recipe ideas.
“In order to take better advantage of this trend of meat snacks, grocers should be educating consumers on the benefits of distributing protein throughout the day and how meat snacks serve as a perfect solution, including the newest turkey options,” Williams suggested. “More and more, consumers want to know how to eat right to maximize their protein intake. Most people are getting enough protein on a daily basis. However, they don’t know the facts around protein’s role in keeping them healthy.”
For instance, he said, in order to maintain healthy muscles, eating a moderate amount of protein at each meal occasion is better than skewing protein intake toward one meal (in most cases, the evening meal).
“Grocers should also remind people that meat snacks will satisfy and satiate them, which is great for weight management,” Williams said. “Incorporating content on this topic in in-store displays, cooking classes, demos and blogs are just some of the ways grocers can jump on this trend.”