After performing poorly early in the pandemic, jerky has made a strong recovery in the first part of 2021. According to data from IRI, dollar sales of jerky have increased 18.2% year-over-year.1 Around the same time last year, the category had only grown about 1% year-over-year.2
“Propelled by March, April and May 2021 sales, jerky has had a strong performance in the last year,” explained Erkin Peksoz, IRI consultant. “This is likely due to increases in outdoor activity and vaccination rates. The category growth has been evenly distributed across the top brands with eight out of the top 10 brands posting growth figures above the 18% category average.”1
Several other jerky brands – both on and off the Top 10 list – follow this same pattern for attracting customers. Tillamook Country Smoker® jerky (the number five jerky) features protein, carbohydrate and sugar callouts on the front of the package as well as a “no artificial ingredients” callout alongside the others. Chomps® sells a variety of meat sticks with Whole30®, Keto and Paleo certifications on back. Finally, biltong and kid-targeted meat snacks are newer additions to the category.
Protein Lunch Snacks
This category, which includes Lunchables® and the more grown-up versions like Hillshire Snack Packs and Sargento Balanced Breaks, contains pre-packaged snacks with meat, cheese, crackers and sometimes fruits or nuts. As children and adults both ate fewer packed lunches last year, these go-to snacks were replaced with meals cooked in-home.
“Recovering from the pandemic lows, protein lunch snacks outperformed total general food sales in the latest 52 weeks,” Peksoz said. “Similar to jerky, the performance of March, April and May 2021 was very strong. Those three months generated the category’s highest sales figures since January 2020.”
Brand performance within this category was mixed, with some of the top brands hitting higher year-over-year sales figures and others seeing dips. Specifically, some of the brands with a younger focus (like Armour® Lunch Makers® and P3) saw diminished sales numbers in the last year. The brands and items with the high sales increases were Sargento® Balanced Breaks® and Hormel’s Party Trays.1 The growth in party trays shows a pandemic trend that could continue past restrictions – on nights when there’s too much happening to cook, party trays offer a one-step, do-it-yourself dinner option.
Rinds, Crisps and Chips
The other highlight in the meat snacks area is pork (or other meat) rinds. These products often feature innovative flavors and are lauded in many diet communities as the perfect Keto/Paleo/high-protein snack. Recently, other brands like Flock have introduced new products into this space. Flock makes “chicken skin crisps” with packaging that highlights the nutritional aspects of the snack. A different brand, Wilde, makes chicken chips in popular flavors ranging from Nashville Hot to Chicken & Waffles.
1 IRI POS Syndicated Data, MULO+C, 52 weeks ending 5/30/2021
2 IRI POS Syndicated Data, MULO+C, 52 weeks ending 6/28/2020
3 Mintel, Salty Snacks – US, April 2021
4 Anne-Marie Roerink, Principal, 210 Analytics LLC, The Power of Meat 2021: An In-Depth Look at Meat Through the Shopper’s Eyes, Report sponsored by Sealed Air Food Care Division/Cryovac® and Published by Food Marketing Institute Foundation for Meat & Poultry Research & Education
5 Midan Marketing, Multicultural Meat Consumer Survey, March 1-5, 2021
This content originally appeared in The Shelby Report.