beef jerky Boltenkoff/iStock/Thinkstock

Asian Americans, Baby Boomers driving meat snack demand

Jerky sales rise nearly 7%

Sporting a compound annual sales growth of over 7% for each of the past four years, meat snacks have established themselves as the standard bearer of the salty snack sector, according to a recently released report by Nielsen.

In North America, the overarching group of salty selections leads the way for all snacks, followed by refrigerated options, confections and vegetables/fruit.

The two main meat segments — jerky and sticks — contribute almost evenly to the $2.8 billion value of the category. That could change in the near future, however, as jerky’s sales are on a nearly 7% rise as of late, while the sticks division has held steady over the past year. 

The main driver of meat snack success appears to be Asian American households, which spend an average of $31.61 per year on meat snacks. Asian Americans are 22% more likely to purchase these items than the average shopper, a fact not lost on VP of Consumer Insights at Nielsen, Jordan Rost.

“Meat snacks have seemingly opened the door for more snacking spending amongst Asian Americans,” Rost said. “Even in the last year, Asian Americans increased their spending on meat snacks more than any other ethnic group.” 

Rost added that while this demographic’s consumption of meat snacks is up, its interest in other salty categories is less robust. “On the whole, Asian American households tend to underspend on key snacking categories. For example, they spend 15% less on potato chips than the average buyer.” 

While this ethnic group may be a driver, it is certainly not the only slice of the market seeking salty meat options.

Baby Boomers spend more on meat snacks than all other age groups, laying down $28.48 per household each year on jerky and sticks. They are 10% more likely than all other shoppers to grab a meat snack or two during a grocery run.

While Baby Boomers may hold the crown for now, that’s not written in permanent marker.

“Millennials are rapidly increasing their spending on meat snacks,” Rost said. “In the last year, Millennial households grew meat snack spending by 17%, faster than any other consumer segment. So, while Boomers are today's biggest spenders for meat snacks, that may change in the near future.” 

The Nielsen report also showed that supercenter shoppers are inclined to pick meat over traditional salty snack options. Almost 25% of meat snack purchases come from these larger stores, while only 20% of traditional salty options are sold at such locations.

So where do these salty, meaty treats go from here? Rost said variety is in the forecast.

“We’ll likely continue to see new tastes and flavors within meat snacks,” he said. “Consumers are flocking to new Korean barbecue-inspired potato chips [for example] and that seemingly creates a natural opportunity for meat snacks.” 

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