What's a 122-year-old chocolate conglomerate to do when it finds itself demonized as a sugar-monger and wholly on the wrong side of swelling public opinion? How about trying to distract the frothing gaze of angry soccer moms with some sort of wacky dried meat bar?
This sounds like one hell of a plan to The Hershey Company. After all, the Pennsylvania-based icon and largest chocolate manufacturer in all of North America has had more than its share of trouble in recent years.
In addition to having to cope with the growing shift towards more thoughtful and healthy eating here in the US, The Hershey Company also has to deal with insanely pricey cacao and the rise to prominence of high-quality small-batch chocolate producers. As a result of this perfect storm, Hershey's has continually watched the sales figures for its iconic bar and other chocolates slip.
Now, the company is betting on meat bars, but with a twist. How does a blueberry barbecue beef protein bar sound?
No, they're serious. What do you think the chance is they'll have a Violet Beauregarde tie-in?
Hershey bought the beef jerky maker Krave last year. In August, Hershey will roll out its new line of Krave protein bars. The new bars will be made from a combo of dried meats and such other "good-for-you" ingredients as quinoa, mangoes, and cranberries. Hershey is also in development on a protein brand called SoFit, which will sell seeds and nuts coated in protein and high-protein smoothies in squeezable pouches.
Sales of chocolate have slowed for each of the last several years, according to market-research firm IRI. And things have gotten worse, not better, in recent months. But the data show that sales of meat snacks in the US rose an average of 10.4 percent annually during the same period.
Krave's general manager, Shane Chambers, told The Wall Street Journal that meat snacks appeal to consumers looking for portability, high protein, and low sugar—all of which are on-trend now. He said the trick is making them taste good. That will be quite a trick indeed.
MUNCHIES reached out to The Hershey Company, which responded with the following: "Meat snacks is a $2.5 billion category that is growing at a double-digit pace, with a compounded annual growth rate of about 10 percent from 2010-2014. Confection has always been a part of the broader snacking category and while Hershey has historically participated most recognizably in confection, we understand that consumers are looking for variety and balance throughout the day." (This quote has been edited and condensed from a larger comment.)
So blueberry barbecue beef it is. Just the sound of it may have us all running back to the Hershey's Kisses.