Chomps punches above its weight in jam-packed meat snacks category

By Mary Ellen Shoup

- Last updated on GMT

Chomps Snack Sticks launched two new varieties earlier this month: Original Turkey and Jalapeño Turkey.
Chomps Snack Sticks launched two new varieties earlier this month: Original Turkey and Jalapeño Turkey.
In a space like meat snacks, it’s hard to standout especially for a small brand like Chomps Snack Sticks. The Chicago startup’s lean and mean approach has gained it access into major retailers including 7-Eleven, Safeway, and Albertsons where it outsells its competitors 2:1, said CEO and co-founder Pete Maldonado.

Within the larger salty snacks category, which has registered flat to no growth in recent years, meat snacks have posted compound annual sales growth of more than 7% between 2013 and 2017, according to Nielsen data. While traditional salty snacks like potato chips still hold the lead, meat snacks are a "not-too-distant rival", Nielsen noted.

In 2017, American shoppers spent an average of $25.81 per year on meat snacks, on a per-trip basis, that's about twice as much as it is on popular staples like potato chips and popcorn ($7.42 vs. $3.61 and $4.01, respectively), Nielsen data showed.

According to Chomps, the company has achieved 300% year-over-year growth since 2014.

Proving itself online first

Maldonado built the Chomps website in two days and the brand spent four years selling online to prove out its concept.

“Within 30 days we were profitable and we haven’t changed over the years,”​ Maldonado told FoodNavigator-USA.

In 2016, the company was approached by Trader Joe’s and after passing the retailer’s rigorous quality control and pathogen testing standards entered its first brick & mortar chain.

“There’s not one food lab that does all the tests that Trader Joe’s require. Now, we’re super confident in our quality control,”​ Maldonado said.

First core audience

Chomps’ 100% grass-fed meat snack sticks range includes beef, turkey, and venison varieties that are all non-GMO, “Whole30 Approved”, “Certified Paleo”, and gluten-free – claims that matter to its fitness-focused audience.

When Chomps’ launched in 2012 it was very in tune with the CrossFit community and consumers following elimination diets such as Whole30 and keto, who also tended to be educated label readers searching for products that fit their lifestyle.

“These people were seeking these kind of snacks that just didn’t exist yet, so it made our lives very easy that we were really just filling a gap,”​ Maldonado said.

The brand’s 100% grass-fed and grass-finished claim is its core differentiator compared to others in the market, Maldonado added.

According to Innova research, the number of new global product launches with the claim “grass-fed”​​ had a 54% average growth rate from 2013 to 2017.”

Chomps sources its meat from suppliers in New Zealand and Tazmania where livestock are fed an entirely grass-fed diet.

“The grass-fed, grass-finished part is key,”​ Maldonado noted. “There were a lot of domestic suppliers marketing themselves as grass-fed, but a lot of those suppliers are grass-fed, grain-finished.

“We spend a lot of additional money in order to source that grass-fed, grass-finished meat. That supply is limited compared to typical grain beef.”

According to current USDA standards​, for a meat product to label itself as “grass fed”​ or “100% grass fed”​, cattle must be fed grass (forage) after being weaned from their mother’s milk. The diet must be derived solely from forage, and animals cannot be fed grain or grain by-products and must have continuous access to pasture during the growing season until slaughter.

Forage consists of grass (annual and perennial), forbs (e.g., legumes, Brassica), browse, or cereal grain crops in the vegetative (pre-grain) state. Hay, haylage, baleage, silage, crop residue without grain, and other roughage sources may also be included as acceptable feed sources.

Female consumer base and future plans

Being in physical retail has attracted a loyal female shopper base, according to VP of marketing, Aarti Gopal.

“Most people when they see meat sticks they think of that traditional persona of a teenage guy or young guy that wants a snack,”​ Gopal said.

“It started in the CrossFit community, it has expanded through the Whole30 community, so now we have a tremendous female base. About 70% of our consumers today are female.”

Gopal added that Chomps’ core demographic is now the 25- to 45-year-old female set who are either purchasing the meat snacks stick for themselves or for their families.

And while the brand sells well on the shelf next to other meat snack brands, Gopal and Maldonado also want to be placed in the perimeter of the store alongside other fresh, healthy snacks where health-conscious female shoppers are most likely to see the product.

“Our idea is to be part of the healthy snack set because that’s really where our proposition resonates the best,”​ Gopal said.

Chomps has future launches ready in the pipeline over the next few months as well as new distribution in additional retailers such as Natural Grocers and Meijer.

“For us as far as innovation and product extensions, we know we haven’t even scratched the surface yet,”​ Maldonado said.

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