As Americans eat less chocolate, Hershey’s begins pushing meat bars

Image: Reuters/Mike Blake
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American protein fiends who want a break from yogurt cups and Clif bars will soon have another option: meat bars.

Starting this summer, Hershey’s will introduce a souped up version of jerky from its Krave Pure Foods division, which the company acquired last year. If the concept is a bit bizarre, so are the flavors: wild blueberry barbecue, cranberry thyme and chipotle cherry, to name a few. Meat snacks are a tiny category in the US, said Marcel Nahm, the vice president of US snacks for Hershey’s. But as more consumers pore over food labels to find healthier, protein-packed snacks, more food companies are banking on health foods becoming a lasting trend.

The pivot is especially important for Hershey’s, which is losing American consumers (paywall) of its classic chocolate bars as they’ve moved onto other sweets and snacks.

There’s also more competition between chocolate makers, as costs have risen and more chocolatiers have entered the market. Big producers like Mars are vying for even more market share, while higher-end companies are snagging consumers who prefer the smaller-batch feel of fancier chocolate.

“We don’t compete only with large companies anymore, we compete with a great number of small entrepreneurs now,” Nahm says.

Hershey’s isn’t the only one doubling down on meat. Tyson’s Hillshire brand is now making bite-sized chicken and salami snack packs. Wilde Snacks is experimenting with baking jerky-like snacks instead of smoking them. That renders the meat softer than jerky, with a texture more akin to a nutrition bar or, less appealingly, the next generation of Spam.