5 PERKY JERKY

Think and most Americans envision road trips and late-night purchases at convenience stores. Today's health and wellness movement is changing those memories as consumers begin sampling buffalo, salmon and even soy versions of the familiar beef and pepperoni flavors that dominated the category for so long. We see the consumer going to a much healthier snack, said Jack Praino, president and chief executive

Think “jerky,” and most Americans envision road trips and late-night purchases at convenience stores. Today's health and wellness movement is changing those memories as consumers begin sampling buffalo, salmon and even soy versions of the familiar beef and pepperoni flavors that dominated the category for so long.

“We see the consumer going to a much healthier snack,” said Jack Praino, president and chief executive officer of Alaska Smokehouse, Woodinville, Wash., which sells three flavors of salmon jerky.

Many of the new products are much more healthful and contain few or no nitrates, a conventional preservative. Sales of jerky with organic content jumped 935% for the 52 weeks ending March 24, in conventional food, drug and mass stores, compared to the prior year, according to SPINSscan Natural data.

Yet, alternative meat and healthful meat snacks are still relatively unknown to many supermarket chains.

Buffalo jerky, made by Montana Mountain Bison in Belt, Mont., is sold in convenience stores, through food distributor Sysco and on the company's website. Laura McElhinney, the company's office manager, said that people like bison because it is among the leanest of meats, rivaling skinless chicken breast.

“[Jerky] is an on-the-go snack, combined with the fact that it's healthy,” said Praino, adding that such factors have helped Alaska Smokehouse's salmon jerky sales to jump 250% since late 2005. Sales of Montana Mountain Bison's products have risen about 10% a month for the last year.