Last week, I wrote about whether or not Americans were ready to eat more pork and meat. While USDA's Economic Research Service (ERS) clearly believes that to be the case, there is one subset of meat products that is already thriving: the meat snacks category. And producers are taking notice.
Dried-meat snacks are no longer viewed as a highly-salted psuedo-food by most American consumers; instead, many consumers (with Millennials at the fore-front) view the product as a high-protein health snack that is also conveniently low in sugar and fat. And although historically, the category is dominated by men between the ages of 18 and 24, according to the NPD Group, women are starting to increase their consumption of the product.
Traditionally, the $2.5 billion industry in the U.S. was controlled by a few companies, including Oberto and Jack Links. However, that is starting to change, with even the Hershey Co. getting in on the action with the purchase of Krave Pure Foods early in 2015. The NPD Group notes that U.S. per-capita consumption of meat snacks has risen 14% since 2012, and according to IRI Worldwide, U.S. jerky sales totaled $1.5 billion for the 52 weeks ended Aug. 7.
Part of the reason these products are gaining so much popularity is their price point. ERS notes that beef and pork producers have been dealing with tighter supplies, but more recently, meat producers have been dealing with lower prices. According to USDA numbers cited in the Reuters article:
For the week ending Sept. 3, choice wholesale beef averaged $195.67 per hundredweight (cwt), down 26 percent from its record high in May 2015. Pork averaged $77.71 per cwt, a 43 percent drop from the all-time high of July 2014.
As the raw materials continued to decrease in price, jerky has benefited more immediately than other meat products. And beef isn't the only meat in play: turkey and chicken are increasing in popularity, and even exotic meats like bison, kangaroo, salmon and earthworms (yes, earthworms) are being turned into jerky.
Will jerky remain popular as the beef and pork industries ramp up, as ERS suggests? It might be a bit early to do the guess work on that question, but in the early going, it appears it's a safe bet for retailers and producers to take advantage of this trend.