Expert Insight: Meat Snacks Mean Business

Data and tips from a McLane Co. category manager

TEMPLE, Texas -- As more consumers reach for alternative snacks to satisfy afternoon cravings, the idea of traditional meals has evolved. Across all trade channels, alternative-snack sales jumped 20% over the past five years, with dollar margins increasing by 25%.

Meat Snacks

The meat-snacks segment is the smallest of the snack category, representing just 6.1% of total U.S. retail sales in 2012. However, due to product innovation and consumers migrating toward healthier snacks, it has become one of the fastest-growing segments and is forecasted to grow another 17% from 2012 to 2017 (8% when adjusted for inflation). This trend is attracting consumers of all ages and driving an incremental female population to the segment.


The jerky segment within convenience stores represents 43.3% of meat-snack sales with a growth of 12.9% in 2012. As consumers look for better-for-you products, the jerky category will only continue to grow and expand beyond its current 25% household penetration.

In addition to healthier options, innovation is also setting the segment on fire with products such as Oberto’s Bacon Jerky, which has been one of the most popular new flavor profiles for jerky and the snack category overall.

Meat Sticks

Meat sticks represent 42.9% of meat-snack sales in convenience stores. The stick-and-steak segment is also moving toward more innovative and healthier offerings.

Jack Link’s newly revamped “Squatch” sticks appeal to the millennial consumer, while turkey offerings from Jack Link’s and Old Wisconsin appeal to females and consumers who desire a healthy snack or an alternative protein to beef.

It is crucial to practice optimal shelf management when merchandising your meat snacks. Sets should include a good balance of:

  • Segments: Sticks and jerky are dominant, with some kippered.
  • Sizes: Single-serve and standard-size are crucial, with one or two SKUs of extra-large jerky.
  • Brands: Slim Jim, Jack Link’s, Old Wisconsin, and Oberto hold some of the top spots.
  • Flavors: Teriyaki, sweet & hot, and jalapeño are must-haves.

Keep in mind that flavor profiles perform differently in every market, but focusing on variety, optimized assortment and placement in high-traffic areas will encourage current and prospective consumers to pick up an afternoon treat.

Kristen Hamby is a meat-snack category manager with McLane Co., Temple, Texas.