SPRINGDALE, Ark. – Three years ago, Hillshire Brands, now a wholly owned subsidiary of Tyson Foods, initiated an ambitious foray into the $1.4 billion jerky category with its iconic Ball Park hot dog brand. The development of Ball Park Flame Grilled Jerky represented the brand’s first expansion outside of the refrigerated and frozen sections in its 58-year history and marked the largest investment at launch for a Hillshire Brands product.
“Within the snacking landscape, high-protein snacks remain the fastest growing category,” Stephen Silzer, director of marketing for Ball Park, told Food Business News, a sister publication of MEAT+POULTRY. “With these insights in mind, we saw an opportunity to not only enter this category with Ball Park Flame Grilled Jerky, but also help drive incremental growth for a category with low household penetration. As the No. 1 beef hot dog brand in the country, and a brand that has a long standing heritage with grilling, we believe that we can bring a significant number of our loyal Ball Park consumers who are not currently purchasing jerky to the category.”
The products debuted in October with five varieties: original beef, bourbon barbecue beef, peppered beef, barbecue pork and teriyaki pork. The company developed a proprietary grilling process to produce a tender texture and impart flavor with lower sodium levels than other jerky brands, Silzer said.
“We have identified key barriers that hold consumers from buying jerky, which include tough texture and high levels of sodium,” he said.
Consumers responded favorably in test marketing, with a nearly 85 percent purchase intent after tasting the beef and pork jerky varieties.
In addition to reaching new consumers, the brand extension expands Ball Park’s footprint into convenience stores, a key channel for the meat snack category.
“While a new area of focus for the Ball Park brand, as a corporation, we have rich experience in this space across our branded portfolio,” Silzer said.
Ball Park Flame Grilled Jerky also is available at 10,000 retailers, including Walmart, Kroger, Publix, Meijer and Safeway.