Jack Link’s – Feeding the Journey

Jack Link’s, the family-owned business with roots going back to the mid-19th century, has grown to be the global leader in protein snacks while staying true to its unique company’s values.

“Jack Link’s uses the leanest cuts of meat, slice them into snack-worthy strips and then follow a 100-year-old family recipe to perfectly craft our jerky. Our meat is marinated with select, premium ingredients and a unique blend of herbs which gives Jack Link’s its remarkable flavour.” The company’s description of its beef jerky product says it all.

The history of what quite possibly might be the world’s best-known meat snack began in northern Wisconsin when the business was launched by the Link family, who moved from Germany in 1885 to start a new life in America.

This small beef jerky business grew quickly, escalating into national sales throughout the US, and the family business became Link Snacks Inc., a house of brands with a global presence. This year, the brand that started in a small town in Wisconsin is experiencing again double-digit growth.

The right spirit

“As a family-owned business, we have a long-term perspective,” says Jan Pieter Schretlen, Managing Director of the company’s EMEA office. In 2014, Link Snacks, Inc created a platform for growth in Europe, LSI– the Netherlands, which now owns the well-known BiFi® and Peperami® brands.

“LSI -Netherlands now serves the European market with three brands Jack Link’s®, BiFi and Peperami. Last year, we launched protein snacks under the Minuets brand in Spain through a partnership with Espuna.”

Schretlen points out that over the last seven years, the business has grown steeply, outperforming the CPG industry average by three times. A clear result of the company’s unique way of ‘feeding the journey of those who move things forward’, underpinned by the global company’s values defined around authenticity, speed, relationships and a customer-centric approach, which has proven to be the right mix for success.

This success is supported by the company’s lean structure and entrepreneurial spirit. Crediting an enthusiastic team and a strong appetite for growth, the company stays ahead of the others in the sector.

Jan Pieter Schretlen says: “VUCA (Volatility – Uncertainty – Complexity – Ambiguity) Readiness is key. This is an important aspect and one that is very appropriate for today’s times. Being a highly flexible, agile company, always listening to consumers’ preferences, adjusting and reacting fast has helped us tremendously weathering the challenges and changes that occur frequently.”

As of today, the company employs approximately 700 people in the EMEA region. With its world-class manufacturing facility in Ansbach, Germany, and EMEA headquarters office in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Link Snack’s Inc enjoys a market-leading position in over 20 countries in Europe and the Middle East. This year the company will have doubled its business since 2014, a close to double-digit increase year-on-year, says Jan Pieter.

Branded protein snacking

He further acknowledged that the protein snacking category is globally pushed by two growing consumer trends – Health Consciousness with protein being perceived as a healthier alternative to sugar and carbs especially, and Convenience. Link Snacks, Inc. is very well positioned to meet the growing consumer demand as a result.

Building on success with core beef jerky products, the company has expanded to offer a broader range of protein snacking products, including BiFi branded products in Germany, Peperami branded products in the UK, and Minuets branded products in Spain. The portfolio is being continuously fuelled by innovation and expanding beyond beef by adding other protein sources, including pork, turkey and chicken in various formats (sticks, bars and bites) and packages (multipacks, singles and portion packs like the recently launched snack boxes).

And not just meat, or animal proteins. LSI has just entered the meat-free, plant-based protein category with the launch of its first vegetarian sub-brand, Vegerami® in the UK. Made from pea protein, Vegerami aims to attract flexitarians. The first weeks following the launch have beaten already our very high expectations, and show very highly promising sales potential, says Jan Pieter Schretlen, adding that the company is now expanding this new innovation platform into continental Europe under the BiFi brand as well.

Working closely with all partners, from suppliers to retailers, is key, Schretlen affirms. “We take a holistic approach to the total value chain and our customers and suppliers are an integral part of our success”.

“Leading retailers with whom we partner in various countries have grown their protein snacking category substantially over the last years. We have seen category growth of 60-80% as a result of a close collaboration using a consumer- and shopper insight-driven Category Management approach over a longer period (3-5 years) of time”.

“We all work as a team, all striving towards one common goal. The list of our trusted suppliers is long and includes many prime names, such as Huhtamaki, innovative provider of (sustainable) packaging; Danish Crown and Vion, leading drivers of sustainability in the European meat processing industry; as well as robomotion, our expert in robotic process automation technology to name just a few. In terms of work in the digital domain on the commercial side, I must also mention Visualfabriq and Roamler, who are revolutionizing our traditional CPG industry in their areas of expertise.”

Dream big!

Reflecting on the ongoing transformation and digitisation of the food sector, Schretlen mentions the increasing drive for sustainability and environmental protection, a concept embedded in the company’s shift to greener packaging and plant-based proteins in Europe.

Jack bifi“Our production plant in Ansbach now uses 30% green electricity. We use heat pumps to reduce the amount of gas to create warm water, as well as heat recovery systems, recovering heat from cooling our fermentation rooms and then re-use it again, creating a closed circle loop.”

“To meet growing demand, the company is now investing in a new plant that is being built in the eastern part of Germany. The investment shows our long-term commitment to the European business and to supplying growing protein snacking demand. The state-of-the-art plant, using 100% green power, is set to be commissioned in two years, and will enable tripling the current size of the business in the future.”

“That growth will, of course, rest heavily on our team members, and the company is always on a lookout for new talent to join the team.”, says Schretlen, who goes on to say: “Like our founder, Jack Link said many years ago: ‘We are an awesome bunch of ordinary people who achieve extra-ordinary things’. We follow a simple philosophy:  Dream big, grow (personally and professionally), make an impact and have fun along the way.”

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