KANSAS CITY, Mo. – It was not long ago that the meat snack category featured two basic applications: strips and sticks in such flavors as original, teriyaki, barbecue and spicy. As the protein trend has accelerated, manufacturers are positioning themselves for future success and adding a variety of new flavors and formats to capitalize on the trend.

In mid-April, Premium Brands Holdings Corp., Vancouver, British Columbia, reached an agreement to acquire the assets and operating divisions of Oberto Brands, the Kent, Washington-based manufacturer of beef jerky. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Founded in 1918, Oberto Brands markets meat snacks under the Oberto, Pacific Gold, Lowrey’s and Cattleman’s Cut brands.

“We are very proud of the many accomplishments we have achieved over the past 100 years as a family-owned and operated business,” said Art Oberto, chairman emeritus of Oberto. “Transitions are always difficult, but we are confident this transaction will best position Oberto for future success. Premium Brands is the right partner to take us forward and strengthen the legacy built by our family.”

The Oberto product line features a range of applications, including the basics as well as pepperoni jerky, bacon jerky, chicken strips and a trail mix. The trail mix is available in three varieties and features blends of dried fruit, nuts and pieces of beef jerky, spicy sweet beef jerky and teriyaki chicken.

Premium Brands owns several specialty food manufacturing and distribution businesses with operations in the United States and Canada. Its family of brands and businesses includes SK Food Group, Raybern’s, Buddy’s Kitchen and Belmont Meats, among many others.

“This transaction will create a leading North American platform in the rapidly growing meat snacks product category and will feature Canada’s top meat snack brands, including McSweeney’s, Grimm’s, Freybe, Piller’s and Harvest, as well as Oberto’s iconic family of brands and our fast emerging, US-based Hempler’s brand,” said George Paleologou, president and CEO of Premium Brands. “I have no doubt that both Oberto and our legacy businesses will benefit from each other’s respective strengths.”

Upon completion of the deal, Oberto Brands will retain its headquarters in Kent.

Earlier this year Jack Link’s, Minong, Wisconsin, added several products to bolster its broad meat snacks portfolio. The new products include a pork rind variety that features 8 grams of protein and 1 gram of carbohydrates per serving; three varieties of Lorissa’s Kitchen Beef Stick in original, smoky sweet and jalapeño flavors; and Jack Link’s Cold Crafted, a new line of portable snacks featuring smoked meats combined with cheese. Varieties include smoked meat sticks (original, pepper jack and cheddar cheese); beef and cheese bites; and smoked meat sticks and cheese (cheddar and pepper jack).

Jck links
“At Jack Link’s, we are the protein snacking company,” said Tom (T.D.) Dixon, chief marketing officer for Jack Link’s. “Our teams are dedicated to bringing new consumers to the category through innovative thinking across our portfolio of brands. Our rapid innovation is really a product of our powerhouse research and development team. Their ability to take an idea and quickly turn it into a great-tasting product is unparalleled in our category.”

The definition of what qualifies as a meat snack is evolving. Several major processors have introduced new products that incorporate meat as an ingredient into a snacking option. Oberto has its trail mix variety while Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minnesota, and Springdale, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods Inc. are building brand extensions featuring meat snacks.

This past year Hormel Foods introduced its Hormel Natural Choice on-the-go snacks. The snacks are available in four varieties, including an oven-roasted turkey breast option with cheddar cheese cubes and chocolate-covered pretzels; honey ham, which also is paired with cheddar cheese and chocolate-covered pretzels; oven-roasted turkey breast with pepper-jack cheese and chocolate-covered blueberries; and oven-roasted chicken with mild white cheddar cheese and chocolate-covered almonds.

Tyson Foods has added variety to the category with its Hillshire Snacking line, which features meat paired with cheeses and other ingredients. The product was introduced nationally in 2015 and expanded rapidly into a $100 million brand in 2017. New varieties to the line include spirit-inspired flavors and options featuring prosciutto.