The Hershey Co. Enters Meat-Snack Market

Confectioner announces plans to acquire gourmet brand Krave Jerky

HERSHEY, Pa. -- Amid a meat-snack category that continues to flourish, The Hershey Co. announced it has entered into an agreement to purchase Krave Pure Foods, maker of Krave premium jerky products. Krave made its convenience-store industry debut at last year’s NACS Show.

The move reflects the double-digit growth of the meat-snacks category and the growing interest in culinary-inspired specialty snacks. It’s also a strategic move as protein-laden snacks rise in importance for today’s busy consumers, while confectioners seek out ways to join the market for better-for-you foods.

Jerky is among many c-store snack-category stalwarts seeing more specialty brands permeate the marketplace—best reflected in the aisles of the Fancy Food Show, but also increasingly apparent at the National Confectioners’ Association’s Sweets & Snacks Expo or even the NACS Show. The Krave brand focuses on chef-driven flavors and ingredient transparency. Varieties include Black Cherry Barbeque Pork Jerky, Basil Citrus Turkey Jerky and Chili Lime Beef Jerky, and its products are free of gluten and high fructose corn syrup.

And the Hershey Co. isn’t the only major company to bring a specialty-jerky brand into its fold: In 2013, Hillshire Farms entered the space with its acquisition of Golden Island Jerky. But the news is certainly a first for a candy company.

Upon the news, both companies provided statements emphasizing these changing consumer needs.

“Krave jerky is a great fit to our portfolio and overall snacks and adjacencies strategy,” said Michele G. Buck, president, North America, of The Hershey Co. “The Krave brand delivers on portable and protein nutrition while also understanding consumers’ food preferences, including the desire for simple ingredients and transparency, something that is also a part of Hershey’s strategic vision. We are excited to add Krave jerky’s unique, chef-inspired products and be a part of this transformational category.”

“An important focus of Krave jerky’s business strategy is to push the boundaries within our category and to stay on top of ever-changing consumer needs. Joining the Hershey family will extend our resources for innovation and expand Krave jerky’s presence in the larger healthy-snacking category,” said Jonathan Sebastiani, Krave CEO and founder. “Our partnership with Hershey is a testament to our team’s dedication to creating something unexpected and striving to be a cut above the rest. We are confident in our future and look forward to further success with Hershey.”

The overall meat-snacks category is growing at a double-digit pace with a compounded annual growth rate of about 10% from 2010 to 2014, according to The Hershey Co. The better-for-you, premium subset of the category, which includes Krave, increased at a rate of almost four times greater than mainstream brands.

Hershey plans to leverage its supply-chain capabilities, consumer insights and retail relationships to accelerate growth and access to Krave products, according to the company. Krave will remain based in Sonoma, Calif., and Hershey plans to operate Krave as a stand-alone business within its Hershey North America division. Sebastiani will continue to lead the business as president of Krave and will report to Buck.

Krave Pure Foods Inc. has generated approximately $35 million in net sales over the past 12 months and was named to Forbes 2015 America’s Most Promising Companies list.