Jack Link's Beefs Up Its Meat-Snack Business

Acquires Unilever's two European-based brands

BiFi Peperami Jack Link's

MINONG, Wis. -- With a quest to become the top global provider of branded meat snacks, Minong, Wis.-based meat-snack provider Jack Link's said it plans to acquire Unilever's meat-snack business. The terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Expected to close by the end of March, the acquisition includes Unilever's BiFi (marketed in Germany, Benelux, Austria and Switzerland) and Peperami meat-snack brands (UK and Ireland), as well as the global consumer packaged goods (CPG) company's Ansbach, Germany-based manufacturing facility.

Unilever, the owner of the Knorr, Hellmann's, Lipton and Wall's ice cream brands, among others, said it is divesting the business to a supplier/marketer who can "more fully realize the potential of these two brands [BiFi and Peperami]," said Jan Zijderveld, London and Rotterdam-based Unilever's Europe president.

Unilever, he remarked, will "continue to sharpen [its]r portfolio to deliver sustainable growth."

As consumers gravitate toward healthier snack-type offerings, meat snacks has become one of the fastest-growing segments--forecasted to grow 17% from 2012 to 2017 (8% when adjusted for inflation), according to McLane category management research.

Troy Link, CEO of Jack Link's, labeled the deal an "important step in delivering on the mission" to become the top global meat snacks provider. Link added that the BiFi and Peperami brands "continue to drive growth in meat snacks in their respective territories, and we look forward to working with all of our team members and retail partners to continue that success."

Over the past couple years, the Wisconsin-based meat-snack processor has been busy innovating with new products, enhanced in part by its ability to up capacity after an Oct. 2012 acquisition of Skylark Meats' Bellevue, Neb.-based packaged meat snack products manufacturing facility.

That investment enabled Jack Link's to increase production capacity to meet meat-snack demand, which grew nearly 13% in 2012, according to Nielsen. Two years prior to that growth trend, meat snack sales had dipped, with Jack Links and Slim Jim owning the majority of the "all other dried meat snacks" category in c-stores (excluding beef jerky), according to IRI Convenience AllScan data for 52 weeks ending Dec. 1, 2013.

The company last spring rolled out Squatch Sticks, developed for and tested directly with millennial consumers. Squatch Sticks landed on CSP's 2013 Retailer Choice Best New Products for a new eye-catching packaging and graphics upgrade to help drive impulse sales.

The organization in 2013 also rolled out Jack Link's Big Dippers, which marries its meat snacks with convenient dipping sauces.

The meat-snacks segment is the smallest of the consolidated snack category, representing just 6.1% of total U.S. retail sales in 2012, meaning there is blue-sky opportunity for growth in North America. When the sale is finalized, it's unclear whether Jack Link's planned to bring BiFi and Peperami brands into North American markets or whether those brands would exclusively remain in Europe.