One in four consumers (26%) say they snack multiple times a day and another one-third snack at least daily, according to The International Food Information Council’s 2020 Food & Health Survey. Most often, snacking happens because people simply feel hungry or thirsty. The second most common reason is snacks are viewed as a treat. More than a one-third of consumers (38%) say they at least occasionally replace meals by snacking, with lunch being the meal most often replaced. Another quarter of Americans sometimes skip meals entirely.

The annual survey, which was conducted between April 8 and April 16, about one month into COVID-19, also showed that Americans are snacking more. Specifically, 41% of respondents under 35 said they are snacking more than normal (compared to 26% of respondents age 50-plus). Additionally, 41% of parents with children under 18 are snacking more (versus 29% without children).

Many snackers are following higher-protein diets, making meat and poultry snacks attractive options. They are high in protein and most are void of carbohydrates.

“As a high-protein product, beef jerky is a great snack option for people who adhere to low-sugar and low-carb diets,” said Robert Leary, director of marketing, Old Trapper, Forest Grove, Ore.

Dried meat snacks, such as jerky and biltong, are non-perishable, making them portable and easy for pantry loading. Formulators are getting more creative with flavors and even product claims, such as organic and grass-fed meat. This appeals to the growing number of health- and wellness-focused consumers who read labels.

“Routines today look pretty different and Epic is here to help,” said Sidd Singhal, brand manager of Epic Provisions, Austin, Texas, a subsidiary of General Mills Inc., Minneapolis. “Not only tasty and fulfilling, our new snacks are a good source of protein and can help offer a quick refuel – whether working from home or on-the-go – to help you maximize your day. We’re excited that our new launches have both desired flavors and macros to help bring this benefit to even more people.”

The meat snack trend is not unique to the United States. In the United Kingdom, the m-eat! brand of biltong is experiencing notable growth during these unprecedented times.

“We knew there was a market out there for biltong when we first launched last year,” says Mark Arasaratnam, chief executive officer of m-eat!. “What we weren’t prepared for was the rise in demand we saw as soon as lockdown began. Like many businesses, we have had to adapt to a new way of working. What we have now is a sustainable subscription model that supports people’s demands for ethically made products and a user-friendly online shopping experience. It is clear to me that people are now holding themselves to a higher standard.”

All the meat used for the biltong is sourced from UK farms, and prepared and packed in the company’s facility in Wimbledon. The biltong is made using a 400-year-old South African recipe that recreates the original methods of curing and preserving meat from the rump of the bull. 

Biltong is an excellent source of protein and provides many health benefits, according to Arasaratnam. From professional athletes to followers of the popular ketogenic diet, more and more people are turning to biltong as an alternative to high-carb, high-sugar snacks. It not only offers a tasty high-protein boost that aids in muscle recovery, but it keeps you full for longer while replenishing energy reserves.

“We only use premium beef, hand cut by our master butchers,” Arasaratnam said. “We always tenderize our biltong in spices that are rich in coriander, salt, pepper and vinegar before slow drying for three days to achieve the same consistency every time. Over 50% of our m-eat! biltong is protein. It is low in carbs and fat, and, unlike beef jerky, we never add sugar. Our biltong only contains sugars which are naturally occurring in beef, which is typically around 2%, versus 30% in beef jerky.”

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