Meat muscling its way into the snacks segment

by Monica Watrous
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — What’s missing from the high-protein snacking segment? It may be, of all things, meat products perceived as fresh and on trend.

At least that has been the assessment of several food makers, including Kraft Foods, upon researching new ways to muscle into the multibillion-dollar market that’s dominated by Greek yogurt, protein bars and powders.

Kraft recently launched the Oscar Mayer P3 Portable Protein Pack, available in four varieties with 13 grams of protein from Oscar Mayer Selects meat, Kraft Natural cheese and Planters nuts.

 

 Oscar Mayer P3 pack

 
“It struck us that, while protein snacking is a $19 billion category, meat — which for most people is synonymous with protein — has been largely absent from the conversation, and completely absent from the protein snacking space, which is where the growth is in the category,” said Thomas Bick, senior director of integrated marketing communications and advertising for Oscar Mayer.

Hillshire Brands had the same notion when developing its Hillshire Snacking line, scheduled to roll out in the fourth quarter of the company’s fiscal year.

“Snacking is a priority for our company,” said Sean Connolly, president and CEO of Hillshire Brands, Feb. 19 during the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference. “We think protein snacking is a significant growth area, and we think it’s margin-accretive.”

The Hillshire Snacking line is available in two varieties. One features Italian salami or hot Calabrese salami with cheese and crackers. The other variety is grilled meats with gourmet dipping sauces in such flavors as sweet chili, honey mustard or teriyaki.

“Why are we doing this?” Connolly said. “Because consumers are telling us they are looking for protein-oriented snacks — in this case, refrigerated, which there’s not a lot out there. But unlike some of the things you do see in the marketplace, this is truly of superior quality. So, this is excellent, high-protein, low-calorie, low-fat snacking in a beautiful packaging execution.”

The new offerings from Kraft and Hillshire follow a similar move made last spring by Hormel Foods Corp. with the launch of REV snack wraps. The teen-targeted products feature meat and cheese wrapped in a flatbread, and the wraps contain 15 grams or more of protein per serving.

Hormel will add four additional flavors to its lineup of 12 varieties of REV wraps.

 
“We obviously believed in the concept that meat-and-cheese combinations could be a positive element for consumers when it comes to snacking opportunities, and so it is certainly not [surprising] to us that others have looked at the marketplace the same way and have come up with different offerings,” said Jeff Ettinger, chairman, president and CEO of Hormel Foods Corp., during a Feb. 20 earnings call. “I mean, I think the offerings that I’ve seen are really all quite different from each other, so there certainly is a possibility that they could well be complementary and hit consumers at slightly different occasions or maybe a slightly different age audience.”

Trends of convenient snacking, cleaner label and health are driving the new product launches, said Patty Johnson, global food analyst with Mintel International, a Chicago-based market research firm.

Not only are the products positioned as a better-for-you snacking alternative to potato chips, but also they sidestep the center-of-store dilemma many food companies face as consumers increasingly shop the supermarket’s perimeter for perceptively fresher fare.

Protein, linked with satiety and weight management benefits, has become an increasingly appealing attribute to consumers, with 60 percent of men and 67 percent of women seeking the nutrient in packaged food products, according to Mintel.

Hillshire Snacking is a new venture for the company. The line of products is scheduled to roll out in the fourth quarter.

But does meat have the power to unseat Greek yogurt in the high-protein snack category?

Doubtful, Johnson said. However, she expects to see more meat- and cheese-based products pop up, particularly in the natural and organic sector.

“There has been some movement in the processed -meat area to develop minimally processed alternatives, so it would be interesting to see if this trend would move in that direction,” Johnson said. “So, you would have more of a less processed meat alternative for the meat component. It would be interesting to see if a natural or organic company would come in with a similar concept but with more of a natural, organic spin.”

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