Why Hershey Is Betting Its Future On Dried Meat Bars

After making untold billions of dollars as probably the brand name most associated with chocolate in America, Hershey is quickly trying to position itself as something other than a purveyor of sweets. After last year’s acquisition of the Krave line of beef jerky products, Hershey is hoping that folks will gobble up its upcoming dried meat bars.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the bars — combining all the taste of beef jerky, but presumably without the dental workout — will carry the Krave brand, but they and other healthier products may be the future of the nearly 125-year-old company.

1. Chocolate is slowing, while meat snacks are growing

While chocolate itself is not inherently unhealthy, its association with and use in candy bars, cookies, desserts, cakes, and (is anyone else getting really hungry) has often made it one of those “no more” ingredients when people try to eat healthier. Thus, chocolate sales have slowed in the U.S. since 2010, with the market’s annual growth rate at only 4%.

Compare that to the more than 10% growth rate for meat snacks during the same time period. Granted, meat snacks are starting from a significantly smaller base, but it’s hard to deny that a growing number of people are interested in snacking on protein.

2. Making beef jerky cool

Though plenty of women enjoy beef jerky and similar snacks, most of these products have been marketed squarely at men, with packaging evoking rodeos, the wild west, the open range, and a general sense of manly man-ness.

But that’s begun to change in recent years with more gourmet brands like Krave, with packaging and marketing that isn’t gendered and flavors — like Basil Citrus Turkey and Chili Lime Beef — intended to appeal to tastebuds rather than just dudes looking to gnaw on dried meat for a while.

Hershey tells the Journal that it’s trying to get over the “dried meat” stigma with the upcoming bar form of its Krave products.

“We aren’t going out there saying it is a meat bar,” explained a Hershey exec. “It’s not just beef jerky in a bar in your mouth.”

3. Dressing up for a sale?

The Hershey brand is known worldwide, and the company is currently valued at around $14 billion, but that’s just a fraction of the size of a snack giant like Mondelez ($66 billion) or PepsiCo ($149 billion), which would seem to make Hershey prime for a takeover.

Thus far, the company’s majority stakeholder — the Hershey Trust Co. — has brushed off outside interest in a takeover, but some snack industry watchers believe that the move toward non-traditional snacks is about more than reaching health-minded consumers.

Some believe Hershey’s effort to foster the development of non-chocolate treats may be intended to provide the company with a more diverse lineup of products to make Hershey more attractive to potential suitors.

In addition to the Krave meat products, Hershey is testing out vegetarian bars and a new line called SoFit that uses protein-coated sunflower seeds and almonds.

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