Nielsen: Protein-craze boosts meat snack sales, dampens diminished meat prices for retailers

By Adi Menayang contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock/Boltenkoff
Photo: iStock/Boltenkoff
Meat snacks have graduated from its road trip ‘gas station snack’ image, sales data imply. The $2.8 billion category had a compound annual sales growth of more than 7% over the past four years.

These numbers come from retail and consumer analytics company Nielsen, published recently in an interactive blog​ post titled ‘Where’s the beef? Check the Snack Aisle.’

As US consumers today increasingly substitute meals with snacks​, Nielsen found that salty snacks in particular “play a critical role in the American diet." ​But the shining star in this category, beating traditional potato chips and pretzels, is the meat snack, like jerky and jerky sticks.

Benefiting from demand for protein

“Meat snacks have benefited from the increasing prevalence of Americans trying to eat more protein as part of a healthful diet,”​ Jordan Rost, VP of consumer insights at Nielsen, told FoodNavigator-USA.  

“In particular, meat snacks have resonated with consumers following paleo and other similar protein-rich diets. They’ve also resonated with consumers interested in snacking on foods naturally low in sugars,” ​he added.

Rost’s analysis is reflected by the amount of meat snacks and other jerky products that feature either caveman-like iconography (such as the aptly named Primal Bar by Caveman Foods​) or Certified Paleo seal​. “Meat snacks are well aligned with many of the health trends driving growth today,”​ he added.

Performing better than other meat departments

Among salty snacks, meat snacks are second place after potato chips in terms of sales—the average household spends $25.81 per year on meat snacks compared to $35.37 on potato chips. (Cheese snacks took third place with $12.60).

But especially as more meat snack launches go premium, the category boasts the highest spend per trip at $7.42 compared to $6.10 for seafood snacks at second place, and $4.01 for popcorn at third place.

When comparing meat snacks’ performance to other meat departments, there’s another angle to the story. “In the last few months, meat across the total store has been heavily impacted by deflation,”​ Rost said.

“But, in the context of 2.5% annual sales declines in the meat department, meat snacks fared relatively well, growing 3.54% in 2016 as a whole,”​ he added. “And while meat snacks’ drive a small share of total meat sales, they have certainly helped dampen the impact of diminished meat prices for retailers.”

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