Skip to main content

Four things to know about jerky


From its protein power to meatless options, learn more about this booming category.

Some credit Native Americans for creating jerky centuries ago, while others say we have an ancient Inca tribe (the Quechua) to thank; either way, as a snack, this dried meat has proven its staying power.

Jerky has long appealed to its fans for its convenience (it’s portable!), tastiness, chewiness and its low-in-fat nature (jerky traditionally being made from lean cuts of meat, mainly beef). While all of those virtues still hold, today’s consumer is also wooed by jerky’s high protein content. Joel Gregoire, associate director, food and drink at market research firm Mintel, notes that while 10% more men than women reach for jerky, there’s an opportunity to appeal to the latter group as they seek to boost their energy levels. “Younger women, in particular, are more likely to view themselves as having a protein deficit,” says Gregoire. “So there are opportunities there for a meat or plant-based snack that speaks to their need for a natural protein source all day long.”

Biltong is having a bit of a moment. While not exactly jerky (it’s prepared differently), this marinated, air-dried meat snack is on trend thanks to its ability to fit nicely into popular diet regimes (keto, paleo) and that it offers something a little different. While biltong originally hails from South Africa, North American companies are jumping on board with companies like Chef’s Cut, Stryve and Jack Link’s launching their versions of the snacks.

The plant-based wave has certainly not forgotten the jerky category. Those seeking something beyond beef can feast on meatless options that run the spectrum from soy-based to banana and coconut to eggplant and tomato jerky (Bella Sun Luci created some buzz when it debuted its Tomato Jerky at PMA’s Fresh Summit last fall). There’s even an Organic Watermelon Jerky, introduced by Trader Joe’s last spring. “People are hungry for variety,” says Greg Sagan, vice-president of sales and marketing at Pennsylvania-based Giorgio Foods, which has launched Savory Wild Portabella Jerky. “We formulate our products to reflect consumers’ growing interests.”

How are these alternative jerkys performing? it kind of depends on who you ask. Bethany Roberts, store manager at Colemans in St. John’s, N.L. says while there are some interesting options, she’s not seeing customers seek them out. Meanwhile, at Toronto’s Big Carrot, marketing coordinator Kate McMurray says it’s been the opposite experience. A big draw for the Big Carrot’s vegetarian and vegan customers, she says, is clean, meatless jerky that is non- GMO, such as soy-based Noble Jerky, made here in Canada.

This article appeared in Canadian Grocer’February 2020 issue.


This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds