For such a simple product concept, the market for meat snacks in the United States is becoming complicated. Within the U.S. market for savory snacks, meat snacks rank fourth behind potato chips, tortilla chips and nuts/trail mixes, according to Innova Market Insights. Yet despite being considered a mature category, the market has shown good growth in the past few years.

Many companies are entering the category and providing new twists to what is considered a traditional product. This past July, for example, Hormel Foods Corp., Austin, Minn., unveiled Spam Snacks, which are dried meat chunks in such flavors as classic, teriyaki and bacon. Hormel also is testing a new snack item from its Jennie-O Turkey Store brand. Jennie-O All Natural Turkey Breast Sticks are individually wrapped dried meat snacks in four varieties, including oven-roasted, sweet barbecue, smokehouse and cracked pepper.

This past January, the Hershey Co., Hershey, Pa., acquired Krave Pure Foods, a manufacturer of jerky products. At the time of the acquisition, Hershey executives said Krave allows the company to expand into a growing category with products that are high in protein and made with simple ingredients.

Yet it is not just large companies that are contributing to category growth. Such small companies as Fusion Jerky, South San Francisco, Calif., is establishing a foothold in the category by manufacturing such products as an Asian-style jerky and targeting women as its core consumer.

Manufacturers in the United States have updated their product lines to focus on a healthier image, more convenient packaging formats and a greater choice of increasingly complex flavor options, particularly hot and spicy variants, often with an ethnic twist, according to Innova Market Insights. There also has been ongoing interest in extending the use of different types of meat beyond the traditional beef and turkey, with launches including chicken and bacon products.

Innova called the meat snack market outside the United States “underdeveloped,” and said there are opportunities for growth, particularly if the image of the products may be delivered as tasty, healthy, substantial and convenient snacks for all occasions, boosted by ongoing product and promotional initiatives.

“Recent acquisition activity, both in the U.S. and in Europe, shows that the industry definitely thinks it is a market with still more potential to come,” said Lu Ann Williams, director of innovation for Innova Market Insights.

Globally, new product introduction numbers remain small in terms of snacks introductions as a whole, with just 5.5% of the global total in the 52 weeks ending March 31, 2015, according to Innova data.

For meat snacks, specifically, Asia dominated new product introduction activity with over 60% of introductions, mainly as a result of the large number of traditional-style meat snacks being launched in China. North America, primarily the United States, ranked second ahead of Europe, where despite the large number of countries and cuisines involved, the relatively underdeveloped status of the meat snack market meant that activity levels were more limited.