Since launching in 2009, Krave has undergone a series of brand and ownership changes, including its acquisition in 2015 by Hershey for $220 million. Under Hershey’s ownership, however, the brand saw sluggish sales. Hershey CEO Michele Buck cited consumer preference for mainstream options and a surge of competition in the premium jerky segment as reasons for Krave’s poorer-than-expected performance.
Then in May 2020, Hershey sold Krave to Sonoma Brands, which also operates a startup incubator and has minority stakes in companies including Dang and Smashmallow. It also recently purchased jerky brand Chef’s Cut for an undisclosed amount.
After the re-acquisition, Krave said it reinstated some of the brand’s founding practices including an increased marinating time to improve the jerky’s texture and consistency, going back to its original cooking process, and renewing its focus on quality ingredients. Its new packaging uses what the brand describes as “vibrant and playful colors” and seeks to visually communicate the improved brand — and help it stand apart from competitors.
“With Krave we created a new better-for-you jerky category that proved so successful other brands followed suit. It was flattering to see brands emulate what was drawing consumers to Krave, but it also resulted in a surge of similar looks and attributes across jerky brands that made it hard to discern one from another on-shelf,” Sebastiani said in a statement. The rebranding and new products aim to help the brand stand out against a crowded meat snack segment.
The move to 100% grass-fed meat will play into consumers’ growing interest in healthier eating during the pandemic. Research suggests that grass-fed beef may contain more omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and antioxidants, and have less total fat than grain-fed varieties.
Meanwhile, the Zero Sugar line speaks to those watching their consumption of the sweetener. And it may speak to the influence of Sonoma Brand’s Chef’s Cut acquisition. The premium meat snack brand included zero-sugar meats, sticks and biltong in its lineup — all of which were missing in Krave’s offer at the time.
With the newly refreshed Krave and Chef’s Cut in its stable, Sonoma Brands is making a bullish play for the meat snack segment, according to Sebastiani. Spreading its investment across multiple brands also increases its consumer acquisition potential. Some of Krave’s other moves here include launching a plant-based jerky in 2020 and signing on Olympian Shaun White as an investor and advisor to the brand. Meanwhile, Sonoma Brands is keeping an eye out for other promising jerky brands as well as startups in the broader food and beverage space.