Jerky Renaissance

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

We’re witnessing a jerky renaissance, as consumers shift toward high-protein snacks:

Sales of jerky rose 13.6% to $760.2 million for the year ended Aug. 12, according to SymphonyIRI Group, a Chicago market-research firm. That follows several years of growth, including a 13.4% sales rise in 2011.

Whether they are looking to build muscle or slim down, consumers are exhibiting a growing appetite for protein-rich snacks. In a 2010 survey of 2,000 consumers, 38% said they “always or usually choose foods or beverages because they are high in protein,” compared with 22% in 2002, according to HealthFocus International, a St. Petersburg, Fla., food market-research firm.

Meat jerky “is like Greek yogurt for men,” says Lu Ann Williams, head of research for Innova Market Insights, based in the Netherlands.

Last year alone, Innova tracked 140 “meat snack” introductions compared with 75 two years earlier. Other protein launches last year included 55 new hummus products, compared with 33 in the earlier period, and 240 new protein bars, compared with 130 earlier.

A serious hurdle, though, stands in the way of jerky’s upward sales trajectory. “We call it jerky shame,” says Tom Ennis, chief executive of Oberto Brands, of Kent, Wash., which has relaunched its jerky line with seven “all natural” products, including Hickory Beef and Spicy Sweet.

Perky Jerky’s maker was surprised to discover that 60% of its customers are women — lululemons in their marketing argot.

Slim Jim’s still focused on young men:

It’s a male rite of passage with teen guys to buy the first stick “you can afford with the change you have in your pocket,” Mr. Marple says. (The standard Slim Jim “Giant Stick” retails for around $1.30.) “It’s ‘I’m becoming a man,’ ” Mr. Marple says. But then something happens to guys in their 20s, he says. “They seek variety in snacking, and they’re moving to chips and Tostitos.”

Slim Jim launched a “man medicine” ad campaign last year, lampooning men whose increasing life responsibilities lead them to wear baby carriers and lug shopping bags. For such lapsed “menergy levels,” one spot says, “reach for a Slim Jim.”

So, young men move up from jerky to chips? Odd.

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