Jack Link's charting new course for meat snacks

by Monica Watrous
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ATLANTA — Jack Link’s is carving a new niche in the meat snacks category with the launch of a breakfast range. Varieties include applewood bacon jerky, maple bacon jerky, original breakfast sausage and hot and spicy breakfast sausage. The products were unveiled at the 2016 NACS Show, hosted by the National Association of Convenience Stores and held Oct. 18-21 in Atlanta.

The first product line of its kind marketed for the morning occasion, Jack Link’s A.M. comes in response to growing competition in the $1.3 billion meat snacks category. As the market leader with 43% share and roughly $568,965,000 in sales, parent company Link Snacks, Inc. aims to stay relevant by identifying new opportunities and occasions in the category, said Christian Fitchett, vice-president of innovation.

“As the team and I think about innovation, we’re always trying to figure out how we help push the envelope on the category (and) pioneer new segments to grow the category,” Mr. Fitchett told Food Business News. “Because, while it’s great to be the category leader, in order to get retailers really excited about what we’re trying to do here, we have to show them how we’re going to grow meat snacks and protein snacks more broadly.”

Jack Link’s A.M. not only seeks to expand consumption of meat snacks to a new day part; it also serves as a convenient, high-protein breakfast option for busy consumers.

“Meat snacks in general are more of an afternoon occasion primarily, but there are a lot of consumers who are really time starved in the morning for protein,” Mr. Fitchett said. “That, combined with … the trend of restaurants going all day on their breakfast menus, it just seemed like it was surprising to all of us that we haven’t thought of this before.”

The products are slated to hit shelves in March. Early feedback from consumer tests has been “excellent,” Mr. Fitchett said.

“One of the things we’ve noticed in our office is people taking product out of the bag and then popping it in the microwave 10 seconds to heat, and they’re really fantastic that way,” he added. “The flavors plus the ease of the product is filling a critical need for a lot of folks in the morning.”

Another new product range debuting at the NACS Show is Jack Link’s Extra Tender beef jerky in four flavors: hardwood smoked, teriyaki, black peppercorn and sweet and spicy.

“We know there are consumers that want a more tender option; we’ve seen that in some of our research,” Mr. Fitchett said. “We’re responding to the market interest.”

Link Snacks also offers a premium brand called Lorissa’s Kitchen, made with responsibly raised pork, 100% grass fed beef or chicken raised without antibiotics, in such flavors as Korean barbecue, ginger teriyaki, sweet chili and Szechuan peppercorn.

“The insight behind that was to bring a product that was seen as a natural, clean label, although Jack Link’s is a clean label product as well,” Mr. Fitchett said. “It has a softer bite. The flavors are a little more crafted, artisanal, in terms of the way they’re brought to life.”

Going forward, Link Snacks continues to explore opportunities to “pioneer new forms of protein,” Mr. Fitchett said.

“The great thing about being the category leader is we have a brand people trust,” he said. “While the category has certainly heated up, our retailers as well as our consumers are looking to us to provide that leadership on what products are great enough to come out under the Jack Link’s or Lorissa’s Kitchens banners. When we bring things out, they have great velocity.

“It’s our duty as the category leader to chart the new course for protein snacks.”
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