Recently, Hershey announced that it was purchasing jerky maker Krave, the first time the candy giant has purchased a company that doesn’t sell candy, chocolate or other sweets. They must be on to something, because jerky — once relegated as a male-dominated meat treat, known mostly by the Slim Jims brand — is branching out and up.
According to an article in the Washington Post this week, Krave closed 2014 with $36 million in sales after only five years in business. The high-end snack jerky, which prides itself on its unique flavor combinations and lack of artificial ingredients, will soon be available at Starbucks locations across the country, with an expectation to more than double its business next year.
The market for jerky has ballooned into a nearly $1.5 billion industry in the United States. According to the NACS State of the Industry data, meat snacks accounted for 58.9% of sales in the growing alternative snacks category in 2013.
The rise of dried meat is in part the result of a general uptick in snacking among Americans. The U.S. snacks business, which includes not only jerky, but also chips, bars, nuts and other fare, is now a $120 billion behemoth. A recent survey by Nielsen found that one in ten people in this country say they eat snacks instead of meals, a number which the research company expects will increase.
But jerky’s popularity also owes a great deal to this country’s obsession with protein, writes the Washington Post. More than half of Americans say they want more of it in their diet, and they have proven that the talk isn’t cheap. Sales of health and wellness bars, which often dangle high protein content, are growing more than twice as fast as the overall food industry. Jerky, which is high in protein, low in calories, highly portable, and can last for a long time, has benefited greatly from its ability to double as both a practical and healthy snack.
According to the Post, Hershey’s acquisition of Krave is a vindication of both jerky’s popularity and potential, creating a natural avenue into the coveted salty food space that Hershey company has yet to explore. It also allows Hershey to experiment with a growing brand that is recognized for valuing quality over cost.