“Usually it takes six months to a year because you need to have been in a lot of stores to get in UNFI, but they tried our product, and with the strength of the meat bar category, they decided to move forward with us,” Rooney told FoodNavigator-USA.
DNX Bar launched in September of this year, a time when the meat snack category in general has been gaining a lot of momentum—Datamonitor Consumer data predicts it will climb as high as $1.2 billion by 2018 in the US. As for meat bars, “today I would call it niche, but the meat snack category has been growing by 11% a year for three years,” said Rooney, citing SPINS data.
“The meat bar within that has been growing by about 30% a year [in sales], which is off the charts,” he added. "I think it's going to become mainstream."
Competing with the big bars
A pioneer of the category is EPIC Provisions, which introduced the meat protein bar concept to the market in 2013 and tripled its sales by the next year. In the beginning of this year, it caught the eye of General Mills and was acquired by the food giant.
Another meat snack company, KRAVE, was purchased by Hershey in 2015. In August of this year, the company announced it will launch its own line of meat bars, made out of dried meats, quinoa, mangos, and cranberries.
Rooney believes his edge against the two meat snack veterans lies in flavor and texture—while EPIC took the plunge earlier, it gave DNX Bar the chance to refine its product “In our trial period, when we were developing the product, we sold and gave away 15,000 bars, that’s a very big focus group.”
Sustaining the meat snack category’s popularity is a shift away from depriving diets into a more nutrient-dense aware one, which meat snacks can help fulfill, Rooney argued. “The trend is, instead of cutting calories, which used to be the way to do it, now it’s about ‘I’m going to keep a full plate but I’m going to make sure it’s the right food.’”
Going for the organic certification
DNX Bar comes in five flavors: Jamaican Style Bison Bar, Sweet Potato Pecan Beef Bar, Mexican Spice Beef Bar, Dark Chocolate Cherry Coconut Beef Bar, and Sweet Potato Fennel Beef Bar, all selling for around $3.49 per bar.
Though all the plant ingredients in the bars’ six flavor varieties are organic, which Rooney said differentiates his bars from the ones already on the market, the protein source isn’t. “By definition, we do not use organic beef or bison. The reason is the highest standard is grass-fed. You can have organic beef or bison, and it will be grain-fed. It does not yield the same protein,” he argued.