I’ve just come back from the 2016 Expo West Natural Products show in the US, where I was struck by just how dominant the protein trend continues to be.
Protein was the hero everywhere, and it now extends into a huge number of categories - including dressings, dips, lollies and babyfoods. Tru Table, for example, showcased an orange blossom honey and balsamic dressing, claiming 9g of protein per serving from whey protein isolate. Pro Yo had push-up lollies with 20g of protein and probiotics, as well as being a good source of fibre. Meanwhile, Hippy Tot had high fibre and protein babyfood pouches and Planters showed NUT-rition Men’s Health protein mixes with pistachios, almonds and peanuts.
Innovation also remains strong in more traditional protein-focused categories like jerky and meat snacking bars. At the show, fish and chicken jerky products were in abundance, and I believe it’s a trend that’s now ripe for development in the UK.
Jerky offerings in the UK to date have been somewhat limited, simple beef recipes - nothing particularly adventurous or foodie. I think, given the UK’s love of chicken, along with the fact that many families struggle to eat their recommended two portions of fish a week, that some of the delicious chicken and fish versions we’re now seeing in the US may encourage people into the category. Fish is often not felt to be an easy-to-make snack, so flavoursome fish or chicken jerky may be just what is missing.
I was especially struck by the sashimi-style jerky of the Dear North brand, whose expensive but delicious wild Alaskan salmon jerky bites delivered premium cues and a tangible point of difference through unusual yet moreish flavours. Salted rhubarb & raspberry and spicy fireweed honey sound odd, but they really worked. Dear North walked off with a well-deserved Nexty Finalist Award from the show.
Across the jerky category more generally, quality has improved significantly. The key difference was a slightly softer, 24-hour marinated chewy texture that brands are embracing, as well as improved recipes. True Gentleman’s jerky was a standout performer in this regard; the company produces incredibly well-balanced recipes. It’s a brand that’s definitely on my list of ones to watch now - its blackberry merlot was crazily moreish.
Over the coming 12 months, we should see several exciting UK jerky launches. More quirky brands with modern flavour takes, hopefully chicken and salmon jerky versions as snackable bite-sized pieces, slow cooked, moister textures and hopefully more jerky trail mix combos. This category has so much untapped potential.
Claire Nuttall is founder of The Brand Incubator