Beef jerky sales grew by nearly seven% last year, according to Nielsen. Meat snacks are second only to potato chips in the salty snack category, but potato chips posted only 1.7% dollar growth over the same time period.
"Beef jerky provides all of the convenience of a traditional savory snack with no cooking or refrigeration needed, but packs a punch of protein and essential nutrients that make it stand out on the snack aisle," said Alisa Harrison, Senior Vice President of Global Marketing & Research for National Cattlemen's Beef Association, a contractor to the Beef Checkoff.
A Booming Category
Research shows that nearly 75% of consumers crave healthier salty snack options, with beef jerky outselling seeds, party mixes and pita chips – combined. As consumers eat fewer sit-down meals and snack more on the go, the demand for portable protein has never been higher with more than half of Americans wanting to add more protein to their diet.
"Beef jerky is the most underrated component of a busy person's life when trying to eat healthy," said Michael Roussell, Ph.D., nutrition consultant. "It helps solve the tricky balance of how to get enough protein throughout the day when you live a hectic, on-the-go lifestyle because it's extremely portable, compact and high quality. All my clients travel with beef jerky and I recommend it to enhance meals and snacks that are lacking protein."
Science Backing Beef Jerky as Recovery Food
The need for healthy snacks on the go increases as consumers take to the outdoors during the summer. With race season kicking off, beef jerky also is a powerful tool post-race or workout. In fact, a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism looked at beef jerky's effect on hydration status and sodium balance of endurance runners and found that beef jerky as a recovery snack following an endurance bout was comparable to traditional carbohydrate-electrolyte beverages.