Estimated U.S. Retail Market Size
Source: Mintel, a market research firm in Chicago
The bad news for meat snacks is that the category hit its peak during the height of the low-carb diet trend in 2003-2004. The good news is that it brought more distribution and awareness to a category that still remains very viable, especially the sub-segment of dried meat snacks.
According to research from Mintel, the $3.2 billion meat snack market increased 12 percent from 2001-2006. Growth peaked during 2004 and began to level off in 2005.
The market’s two segments, dried meat snacks and pork rinds, both declined at current prices from 2004-2006, according to Mintel. However, dried meat snacks’ drop was modest, the study pointed out, and the segment’s overall performance from 2001-2006 was up 15 percent.
Although the high-protein diet trend is not fueling category growth as it did in past years, dried meat snacks remain a strong snack option, thank to innovations, increased distribution and consumer acceptance.
New-product innovation has proven to be the key to sustaining sales in meat snacks post low-carb/high-protein diet years. It is also attracting new users to the category.
Mintel’s study revealed a move away from beef and toward more turkey, chicken and ham, primarily because those sources can result in a softer texture and “less-tough” chew. Popular flavor profiles currently include spicy, barbecue, teriyaki and smoke. Health claims such as low/no/reduced fat, low/no/reduced carbs, no additives/preservatives, low/no/reduced trans fat and all-natural are also getting more play in new meat-snack introductions, as are premium products.
Trends in meat-snack packaging include re-sealable bags for larger servings and portion-control, single-serve packages.
During the low-carb movement, the meat snack category’s target audience has moved beyond young males. It now targets females, Baby Boomers and even children. The health claims and softer textures/non-beef sources are part of the new-user attraction.
In order to keep the momentum going now that sales have slowed, retailers need to get more creative with merchandising. Mintel believes sampling could be an effective tool to attract new users. Promotions geared toward Hispanics (heavy users of pork rinds) should also result in favorable sales. Asians are another up-and-coming group, particularly with Teriyaki profiles.
The changing U.S. demographic of younger generations is expected to partly fuel the growth of meat snacks. However, industry experts say that manufacturers must broaden their advertising initiatives to appeal to women if they want to grow. Overall, Mintel expects total U.S. sales of meat snacks to increase at an inflation-adjusted annual rate of 0.4 percent through 2011; it expects total U.S. sales of meat snacks to increase 21 percent at current prices and 2 percent at constant prices through 2011.
Meat snacks got a big boost from the low-carb movement.
Growth has slowed, but increased distribution and new users are sustained.
Softer, more flavorful options are a big hit.
Stronger advertising and promotions are the keys to future growth.