Jared Koerten, senior food analyst for Euromonitor International, spoke about global snack trends at SNAXPO 2017.

Meat snacks saw yet another successful year in 2016, prompting Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive vice president and practice leader with Information Resources, Inc. (IRI), to pose the following question to snack manufacturers at SNAXPO 2017: Is jerky the new bar in snacks?

During a presentation at the event, Lyons Wyatt explained that the similarities are many. The bar category has been steadily growing for the past decade with continued innovation in flavor and ingredients varieties. Jerky offers similar opportunities for flavor varieties and its own set of nutritious attributes. Meat snacks are perceived by many to be a great source of protein while being generally low in fat and sugar.

The beef jerky snack category saw more than $873 million in sales over the 52 weeks ending Feb. 19, 2017, according to IRI. That was up 9.4 percent over the previous year. All other dried meat snacks saw more than $510 million in sales over the same period, up 1.4 percent.

“It isn’t just about beef jerky anymore, it can be about chicken, it can be about turkey,” Lyons Wyatt said. “Being positioned in a new way, having different forms of meat snacks, having different flavors, having different packaging, these are just examples of the innovation that came in 2015 and 2016.”

Products like Oberto Chicken Strips saw tremendous growth. Oberto saw $2.9 million in sales last year, up 140 percent over the previous year. Hillshire Grilled Chicken Bites reached $29.1 million, up 172 percent over the previous year.

Euromonitor International data shows that meat snacks are one of the fastest growing categories in $46 billion US savory snack market, along with natural, better-for-you, and nut snacks.

Flavors are one of the main drivers of success in the category. According to IRI, sales in barbecue-flavored meat snacks rose 40 percent while sales for hot and spicy flavors rose 41 percent.

“Hot and spicy flavors have been around for a long time, but because of the changing demographics in the US, hot is winning,” Lyons Wyatt said. “Really understanding the flavor profiles of your target consumer is extremely important.”

Jerky is also expanding outside the traditional snacking times into day parts, including breakfast. Jared Koerten, senior food analyst, Euromonitor International, used Jack Links AM as an example during a presentation at SNAXPO 2017. “They are a high-protein, modest calorie content snack for a healthy one-the-go breakfast,” he said.

New ideas and applications for meat snacks are why Lyons Wyatt and Koerten said there are big things on the horizon for meat snacks.

“Meat snacks have had an amazing couple of years and they’re not going to be stopping now,” Lyons Wyatt said. “If you’re in that industry, get ready, put your seat belt on, because it’s going to continue to grow.”