NEW YORK — It’s a meal. It’s a snack. It’s Meal Snack, and it’s the latest line to launch from the Farmer’s Pantry brand.
Combining slow-cooked beef, chicken or turkey with crunchy vegetables in a double-pouched bag, Farmer’s Pantry Meal Snacks were developed as a hearty alternative to jerky or trail mix. Varieties include herb roasted turkey with vegetables, cranberries and stuffing; flame-grilled chicken with slow-roasted corn, and garden harvest chicken with vegetables.
|Jeremy Cage, co-founder and president of parent company United Snacks of America|
“The meat snack category has gone through the roof… but when you sit down for a meal, you don’t typically sit down and have just a piece of meat on its own, and you don’t typically sit down and eat meat with peanuts or chocolate,” said Jeremy Cage, co-founder and president of parent company United Snacks of America, in an interview with Food Business News. “You usually eat it with vegetables. That was the inspiration for Meal Snacks.”
The product line taps into several consumer trends, said Mr. Cage, a former executive at PepsiCo who launched Farmer’s Pantry last year with co-founders Josh Chaitovsky and Jeff Moskowitz.
“Consumers are increasingly gravitating to foods that are wholesome, authentic and identifiable,” Mr. Cage said. “With Farmer’s Pantry, one of the key things is we’re using the kind of authentic and identifiable ingredients you would find in a farmer’s pantry.
“Americans are also looking for more products that are made in America, so we are only sourcing our ingredients from U.S. farms. That’s an important part of who we are. Somewhat related to that is that Americans are searching for and rewarding brands that are doing good and giving back, so we are supporting five different charities that are aimed at helping American farms survive and thrive.”
At the root of the Farmer’s Pantry Meal Snack concept is what Mr. Cage called “the snackification of meals or the mealification of snacks.” Consumers are busier than ever, and the traditional three-meal-a-day ideal is eroding.
“Consumers as a consequence of that are looking for more substantial snacks,” he said. “And that’s really what Farmer’s Pantry is all about. It’s all about more substantial snacking.”
The first product line to emerge from the Farmer’s Pantry pipeline is Cornbread Crisps, a range of baked snacks in original, jalapeño and honey butter flavors.
“We are the only company that is taking cornbread, which is a key American staple, and turned it into a crisp, which is quite a bit more substantial than a traditional potato chip,” Mr. Cage said.
Both product lines are available nationally. Meal Snacks are sold exclusively in Hudson News stores with plans to expand to additional retailers beginning next year.
Meal Snacks were developed in less than a year, but the product had its challenges along the way, Mr. Cage said.
“You’ve got the meat, which you want to keep moist, and you’ve got the vegetables, which you want to keep nice and crunchy, and then you’ve got a technical challenge of moisture migration,” Mr. Cage said. “The crunchy vegetables would absorb the moisture from the meat, so the meat would go harder and the vegetables would go softer, and that’s obviously not a pleasant experience for the consumer. So, we’ve come up with an innovative bag that has a soft seal down the middle of the bag, so we can keep the meat moist and the vegetables nice and crunchy.”
Perfecting the proprietary seasoning blend was another technical challenge.
“Now that we’ve cracked our proprietary seasoning and preparation and the packaging, we believe we’re creating a new segment of the market, which is a segment called meal snacks, and we believe the possibilities are really endless in terms of recipe combinations and different proteins,” Mr. Cage said. “I think there are multiple day parts and multiple occasions we can address. Right now we’re obviously addressing from a day part standpoint early afternoon to dinnertime. So there are opportunities to go later, there are opportunities to go earlier, and then looking at different consumer need states, what are they looking for earlier in the day versus later in the day? We do feel very energized by the possibilities of where this can go.”
Looking ahead, the company plans to continue building the Farmer’s Pantry brand and distribution footprint. A key feature of future innovation is introducing new and novel concepts to the crowded snack category.“If you’re highly relevant but you’re not distinctive, you’re a commodity,” Mr. Cage said. “If you’re highly distinctive but not relevant, you’re a fad. Our philosophy is we want to be both highly relevant and highly distinctive, which is going to give us the ability to be successful over time.”