ANAHEIM, CALIF. – Far from dried up, the market for meat snacks generated $2.3 billion in the past year, according to data from IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.

ConAgra’s Slim Jim and Jack Link’s lead the category in dollar sales, with emerging players in the natural and organic segment seeking a hearty cut of share.

New brands on display at Natural Products Expo West held March 7-9 in Anaheim played the high-protein snacking angle with a better-for-you bonus. Many products were positioned as Paleo-friendly, gluten-free, Non-G.M.O.-verified, or free from such ingredients of concern as nitrites, MSG, artificial preservatives, flavors and colors.

Though meat snacks represent the smallest share of sales in the U.S. salty snacks category at 6.1%, according to Mintel International, Chicago, the segment is primed for growth, driven by expanding product innovation, a healthy snacking perception and the low-carbohydrate/high-protein profile. From 2010 to 2012, meat snacks posted the largest gain in the salty snacks category with 24.3% growth.

Shaking up the dried meat market are new formats, nontraditional flavors, a growing emphasis on ethical animal treatment, and alternative proteins, from lamb to tofu.

Click for a slideshow of innovative new meat snacks and jerky products.