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Protein Powers Snack Sales

January 15, 2018

More and more, meat snacks are demonstrating their allure with consumers.

Whether consumers are choosing them to get a convenient boost of protein or to quell between-meal hunger pangs, meat snacks in a growing variety of forms and flavors are continuing to climb the ranks in the on-the-go snack category.

As of July 1, 2017, meat snacks generated $1.4 billion in c-stores, a hike of 3.2% over the previous year, reported Nielsen Co. in its Total U.S. Convenience Channel View.

For the 52 weeks ending Sept. 9, 2017, Nielsen revealed that meat snacks are a 9% share of the on-the-go snacking category within the convenience channel, growing at a rate of 5% or $547 million over the past year. That’s an impressive increase, especially because total on-the-go snacking rose 1.2%, said Carl Elliott, Nielsen’s director of convenience retail.

Elliott pointed out that meat snacks are the third most important on-the-go snack category in the convenience channel with a 14% share, the same share as salty snacks, and trailing only confections and baked goods.

“Meat snacks have an advantage because 39% more food items with ‘high protein’ claims are selling now vs. four years ago,” said Elliott. “The health halo over meat snacks makes this category a great one for the convenience channel because 44.2% of consumers are willing to pay a premium price at the convenience store for a more healthful snack.”

A March report from Nielsen showed that jerky had a particularly strong year, showing a sales growth of nearly 7%. At the same time, stick sales were flat.

Those are the trends that category manager Ian Stewart has seen at Gassaway, W. Va.-based Go-Mart stores. But the big story at Go-Mart, which has 23 stores in West Virginia, Ohio and Virginia, is the fact that meat snacks have become a high-ring item since a year ago when sales of 10-ounce bags of Oberto Cattleman’s Cut jerky in original, teriyaki and peppered steakhouse flavors caught fire.

“We were surprised at the success of the 10-ounce bag because we had tried to sell larger bags before and they didn’t go so well,” said Stewart. “We figured that the price points were too high.”

At an “everyday low price” of $11.99, the Cattleman’s Cut is still a high ring, but Stewart attributes at least part of the positive customer response to the attractiveness of the product in its see-through bag. The reduced price (the jerky retails for $15.99 on Oberto’s web shopping site) is part of a promotion with the manufacturer, one that Stewart is eager to continue into 2018.

According to a Nielsen Grocery/Convenience report for the 52 weeks ending Oct. 21, 2017, Stewart is not alone in seeing a surge in large-bag sales. Extra-large (XL) 10-12-ounce packages make up 23% of jerky sales and, reported a Nielsen Convenience year-to-date study ending Nov. 18, 2017, the three top growth brands are all packaged in clear, XL bags.

Ted Roccagli, director of partnerships and preferred vendor program for Empire Petroleum Partners, which services c-stores in 30 states and operates 80 of its own, agreed that large value clear bags are gaining in popularity, especially the 10-ounce packages from Cattleman’s Cut and Old Trapper. Brands like Chef’s Cut are also gaining momentum.

“Clear is what consumers are looking for,” Roccagli said. “They want to see exactly what they’re buying.”

As far as flavors go, heat sells, he said. Even the traditional sticks are getting sassy with spicy seasonings such as Tabasco and nacho.

At Go-Mart, customers are willing to try something new as long as it doesn’t stray too far from the familiar, Stewart said. A 10-ounce sausage stick from Cattleman’s Cut recently sold so well in Go-Mart stores during testing that it earned a place on the stores’ planogram, Stewart pointed out. He added that a pepperoni jerky recently debuted by Oberto will likely follow suit.

“But flavors like Korean BBQ are too far out for most of our customers,” Stewart said.
Anna Bettencourt, snack category manager for VERC Enterprises, with 26 stores (24 in southeastern Massachusetts, one in southern New Hampshire and one superette), thinks she played it a little too close to the vest when it came to meat snack forms and flavors in 2017. But she has a far different game plan in mind for 2018.

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