jerky_bodyFighting the heat can be a challenge when it comes to keeping food safe and sanitary during barbeques, picnics and festivals. Between spoiled cheese, rotten fruit and bugs crawling up and down your snacks, today’s “global warming” weather isn’t necessarily food-friendly.

However, the folks behind the jerky and meat snacks category are actually turning up the heat and churning out products that are not only fun-filled, but tasty, healthier and portable enough for on-the-go travel.

“Two emerging or ‘growing awareness’ trends that we see are the desire for better satiety (a snack that fills me up) and ‘nutritional anchors,’” says Jeff LeFever, director of marketing for Jack Link’s Beef Jerky. “Satiety has long been an advantage of meat snacks, compared with other salty snacks, as meat snacks are naturally high in protein. Nutritional anchors are more of an observation of the current health-seeking trend, which seemingly migrates over time.”

In response to these trends, the Minong, Wis., jerky producer created a slew of products and line extensions to keep the summertime fun going.

For instance, Jack Link’s Sasquatch Big Steaks boast larger-than-life dimensions, such as providing 20% more beef steak in a more than 16-in. stick. They come in Angry (Original) and Zen (Teriyaki) varieties, as well as Steakhouse Recipe and Oven-Roasted Turkey Steak options.

Just in time for hunting season, Jack Link’s Original and Teriyaki Beef steak products will be available in orange-colored packaging featuring Realtree Camo patterns through December. These pocket-sized offerings can be easily stored in a field bag or jacket and require no refrigeration.

Jack Link’s also expanded its MATADOR beef jerky lineup to include Flamin’ Hot Sticks, which blend MATADOR’s original snack stick with a hot and spicy flavor. And if that wasn’t hot enough, Jack Link’s Cholula Hot Sauce jerky features Cholula-brand hot sauce and hits store shelves in the coming weeks.

“Hot sauces continue to grow in popularity and hot flavors are the No. 4 flavor segment for jerky (behind Original, Teriyaki and Peppered),” LeFever says.

Also blazing the trail with hot, hot, hot products is Thanasi Foods. The Boulder, Colo.-based company partnered with Kikkoman Sales USA, Inc., San Francisco, to launch Duke’s Kikkoman Teriyaki. “As always, our signature small batch marinating and smoking process makes Duke’s even more delicious and tender than alternative jerky products on the shelf. Duke’s is, and always has been, proudly made in the USA,” says Justin Havlick, president of Thanasi Foods.

Thanasi also debuted Black Magic Peppered beef jerky, which like all of its products, is comprised of 100% USDA-approved Angus beef.

“One of the keys [to producing fun-filled products] is taking snacks that are social and fun to eat and adding the ingredients of iconic brands that create a sense of nostalgia, [such as] Kikkoman Teriyaki-flavored beef jerky for that long summer hike,” Havlick says. “The companies that will succeed will have an uncontested consumer satisfaction and loyalty through healthy, premium and sustainable foods that are differentiated by flavor, ingredients, true quality and a delicious eating experience worth returning for daily.”

For its part, Ford’s Gourmet Foods, Raleigh, N.C., introduced Bone Suckin’ jerky, which is hand made by the Cow Creek Band Indians in Oregon and contains apple cider vinegar, black pepper and garlic. Plus, it is all-natural, gluten-free and contains no preservatives or nitrates.

“We work with Native Americans. They make [the jerky] for us,” says Patrick Ford, vice president of marketing. “They know how to make beef jerky, and they’ve been making it for hundreds of years. They make it with real, whole muscle. They don’t put chemicals in it to get the end product.”

Climate control
While some jerky manufacturers have managed to raise the temperature, others are maintaining climate control by providing products that boast all-natural ingredients rather than heat.

That’s because consumers are seeking healthier options in the snack category, says Tom Ennis, chief executive officer of Oberto Brands.

“Oberto is listening to this demand and generating additional sales opportunities by appealing to changing consumer tastes. Specific to Oberto, we opted to do a major product overhaul and made our jerky all-natural and preservative-free. Oberto beef jerky is now a much tastier and healthier option,” Ennis adds.

In the spring, the Kent, Wash., manufacturer expanded its signature Oh Boy, Oberto! brand to include an all-natural kind that comes in Original, Teriyaki, Peppered and Hickory offerings. The new recipe uses only simple, all-natural ingredients, including beef, sugar, beef broth, water, salt, spices, natural flavorings and vinegar to produce a seasoned, smoked and dried-to-perfection product. “The line also includes an exciting BBQ Pork and Teriyaki Turkey boasting the same all-natural recipe, but with pork and turkey instead of beef,” Ennis notes.

Oberto also redesigned its packaging to better showcase the recipe switch and prominently display the all-natural attributes on the front of the packaging, Ennis says.

The key to producing a fun-friendly product, Ennis adds, is to the consumers something they can enjoy. “Look at jerky. It’s a great snack, synonymous with ball games, road trips, hiking, camping and many more summer activities. Jerky is easy to grab-and-go, store and take with you wherever you go to have fun,” he notes. “It’s an ideal snack for warm weather, as you’re not going to get a sugar rush followed by an energy slump, which is even worse on a hot day. Jerky keeps people energized and out there doing what they love—whether heading out for a hike, catching a little league game, enjoying a favorite pro team or heading out on a summer adventure.”

In response to consumers “getting tired of the traditional hard and leathery texture of the product,” Florio Sports, LLC, the Long Valley, N.J., makers of Ripken Power Shred jerky, launched Original, Teriyaki and Sweet n’ Spicy options, available in a pouch or a can.

“[Jerky is] the new baseball snack. Out with salty peanuts, buttery popcorn and sugary crackerjacks—in with the high-protein, delicious, 100% made in the USA beef jerky,” says Frank Florio, president and founder.

Florio Sports uses only beef made in the United States, and uses the brisket of beef, which is a softer, tastier and more expensive cut of beef, Florio notes. Florio Sports also presented a new packaging format—the metalized pouch, which “ensures freshness and reduces the risk of product breakdown due to light or oxygen exposure. This is due to the fact of our superior oxygen barrier and total barrier to light/UV rays,” Florio says.

Likewise, the Performance Enhancing Meat Snack Co., Englewood, Colo., expanded its Perky Jerky line of meat snacks to include Turkey Perky Jerky, featuring strips of turkey blended with a hint of guarana and other flavors. Plus, it is low in fat and delivers 50 calories per serving.

Whether it’s geared for summertime fun or just providing a better-for-you option, today’s jerky and meat snack producers are keeping it real, tasty and authentic.

Editor’s Note: To learn more about these and other new jerky and meat snack products, go to and check out our online new products section.