Jerky Goes Vegan, Vegetarian

New versions of the chewy food take the snack beyond meat, while meat-based brands are unveiling new options.

April 23, 2019

HUNTINGTON BEACH, Calif. – A few years ago, a tsunami of meat-based products transitioned jerky from a lowly snack to a hip product. Now, a new wave of vegan and vegetarian options is pushing jerky to even greater heights, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Sheila Amiri says she never cared for jerky. But the Huntington Beach, Calif., account executive recently found herself ordering $75 worth of it online after sampling her sister’s stash while on vacation. “I immediately fell in love,” says Ms. Amiri, 44, adding that eating a small bag of it daily at her desk has replaced her afternoon potato chips.

Entrepreneurs are “jerkifying” the snack aisle by turning bananas, coconut and shitake mushrooms into jerky. Even meat-based brands are unveiling new options, such as biltlong and pork carnitas jerky. Last year, 174 new jerky foods made their debuts, a 66% jump from 2017 and nearly double the number from five years earlier, according to Innova Market Insights. Meat-based jerky sales grew 5.6% to reach $1 billion in the year ending Feb. 24, according to SPINS, while plant-based jerky sales rose 13.3% to reach $4 million.

“It’s that whole ability to wrap your teeth around something and chew and have that primal experience of tearing at something,” said Jacqueline Beckley, founder of Understanding & Insight Group, of jerky’s widespread appeal.

Whole Foods Market will add vegan and vegetarian jerky to its shelves during the next 12 months to “hopefully bring an entirely new consumer into this category,” said Jason Krolikowski, a senior global category merchant.