“The meat snack category is the fastest growing category for the last three years, period,” John Rooney, CEO of DNX Foods, told FoodNavigator-USA. “It’s not going away. It’s a trend, not a fad.”
Indeed, Datamonitor Consumer data predicts the meat snack category will climb as high as $1.2 billion this year in the US, with the meat bar within the bigger category growing at an eye-watering 30% year-on-year.
DNX Foods sold its first bar in 2016 and has seen exponential growth in the past year with its Whole30-approval, and appeal to the organic food, paleo, keto, and CrossFit communities.
“All these together are a big, big population. You’re looking at about 15 million people in the US,” said Rooney.
The Tucson-based company just announced a deal with Sprouts Farmers Market that has put its grass-fed beef and bison bars on the shelves of the natural food store chain’s 290 locations nationwide. Sprouts will initially offer three of DNX Foods’ bars: sweet potato pecan and Mexican-style seasoning grass-fed beef recipes, and the grass fed bison Jamaican-style bars.
Sprouts is the big one for the young company, which launched about a year ago. The bars are also available in local retailers in the North West, sich as New Seasons Market and Market of Choice in Oregon, and Mollie Stone’s in Northern California. There is also a presence in the Northeast in about 60 Big Y stores.
“The growth is huge. Some months we’re doubling our sales, but we’re coming from a small base,” said Rooney.
The company, with products available in close to 600 stores nationwide, has come a long way in a short period of time. When Rooney was first approached to join a couple of years ago, there was a focus on grass-fed bison jerky. Rooney, however, was not attracted by the jerky category and the company put together a team including a nutritionist and a raw gourmet expert, and spent nine months formulating and testing bars. “We must have sampled about 15,000 bars during that time,” he said.
DNX launched with one grass-fed bison bar (Jamaican style) and four grass-fed beef bars (sweet potato pecan, Mexican spice, dark chocolate cherry coconut, and sweet potato fennel). The company recently launched a peri-peri chicken. All of the products retail for around $2.99 per bar.
Rooney said that the company is working on multiple additional SKUs based on new recipes and different proteins. “We see no reason to diversify out of bars,” he said. “We aim to go deep into the category and not to spread thinly across multiple categories.”
So what’s the point of differentiation for DNX Bars? “Nobody else has balanced macronutrient bar like we do, with organic fruit and vegetables in the bar. And our taste and texture are superb.”
A hot category
The meat bar category has attracted a lot of attention from big food companies, with EPIC Provisions (which introduced the meat protein bar concept to the market in 2013) being acquired by General Mills, while KRAVE was purchased by Hershey in 2015.