Move Over Chip—Meet Jerky

Americans love to snack and the potato chip has long been a favorite.  For the first time, chip sales are slowing down and interestingly enough, it’s the meat snack that is winning. According to IRI, meat snacks were a $2.8 billion-dollar business in 2017 1 and jerky represents about a billion of that with no signs of slowing given an annualized growth rate of 4.2% through 2022.2 Reflective of consumers’ low carb, sugar and high protein focus, jerky is attracting loyal fans with innovative varieties, portability and popular claims like gluten-free.  Lunch meat and sausage brand, Land O’Frost, jumped on the jerky bandwagon introducing its new Gone Rogue chips, a Savory Snack award nominee at the recent Sweet & Snacks Expo in Chicago. Promising a jerky with a crunch like a potato chip, Gone Rogue offer 17 grams of protein and six flavors including Buffalo Style Chicken, Chicken Bacon and Honey Mustard Ham. Obviously, there’s a lot worth chewing on when it comes to jerky—here’s some inspiration if you’re thinking about creating a jerky snack of your own.

Beyond the Beef 

Back in 2009, Krave made jerky craveable, with its natural, upscale positioning, unique flavors and protein sources. With varieties like Black Cherry Barbecue Pork or Pink Peppercorn Beef, Krave took jerky beyond hunting and fishing to an accepted and healthy snack. Fast forward to today, Krave, along with meat snack brands, Epic and Lorissa’s Kitchen, is now considered the better-for you brand in a market dominated by stalwarts like Jack Link and Oberto.

Krave paved the way for elite jerkies made from protein sources like beef, pork, chicken or turkey. While those are the most traditional, there are other options like Pan’s Mushroom Jerky, veggie jerkies, and Solely’s Fruit Jerky that has one whole fruit in each piece of jerky. For the bug-eaters, there’s earthworm jerky that can be had as quick as you can access Amazon. Jerky is taking a cue from craft beer brands, using small-batch care and attention like McSweeney’s or handcrafted artisan style at Fusion Jerky.

Pizza in A Bag – YouTube sensation turned snack master, Harley Morenstein, is famous for his Epic Meal Time channel where he creates extreme mashups like fried chicken nachos.  Recently he came out with a snack of his own taking all the flavors of pizza to create a jerky mashup. Pizza in a Bag is a pepperoni jerky seasoned with flavors or toppings like tomato sauce, buffalo sauce, cheese, and garlic.

Beyond the Guys

Jerky is no longer just for men. Brands are understanding that women snack as much as men and look for organic, natural options that are leaner with strong flavors.  Women-owned brand, Two Chicks, capitalized on this by using a recipe built on simple, high-quality meat and ingredients with a homemade vibe. They also set out to create a classic jerky with a good chew as opposed to a soft jerky loaded with a lot of ingredients. Using tamari soy sauce and honey enabled them to have a gluten-free, low-sugar product that is important to their demographic. And brands like Wild Zora target CrossFit loving Millennials promising to boost their workouts from eating their jerky.

Beyond the Grocer 

The growth of jerky beyond the supermarket is astounding. C-store’s are expanding their jerky sections as busy consumers look for a quick high-protein snack. While c-stores have traditional jerky brands on hand, newer brands like Perky Jerky or Country Archer are enjoying spiking sales in c-stores. 7-Eleven snack category manager, Lance Pitts, prioritizes brands with clean labels and claims like non-GMO, gluten-free, or low-sugar to fill their stores.3 Check out new snack, Ayoba-Yo, from a South African father and son team who produce biltong from fine cuts of beef that are air dried for 14 days.

Spotted and Seen / Jerky

  • If you want a non-meat jerky option that’s low in sodium, Cocoburg has a coconut jerky that is vegan and gluten-free in Ginger Teriyaki and Chili Lime.
  • Speyside Smokehouse Salmon Jerky, nominated for a Scotland Food and Drink Excellence Award, is made from Scottish farmed Atlantic Salmon fillets in flavors like Sea Salt and Black Pepper, Teriyaki and Sweet Chili Pepper.

Finally, if you want to read more about jerky and like reading blogs, meet a man who has a blog dedicated to reviewing jerky. He’s reviewed and sampled over 1,000 varieties and counting –but in the meantime, we’d love to help you with some real food ingredients for your jerky application.