Protein-craving Americans have made jerky today’s hot snack.

By Rieva Lesonsky

Beef jerky is big business,” proclaimed a recent article in The Washington Post. While the article focuses on why Hershey, a mega-big business, just bought the “upscale snack maker Krave for as much as $300 million,” there’s a lot that’s relevant for small business here. The deal got attention partly because Hershey has never previously bought a company that didn’t sell candy or chocolate.

Krave, says The Post, is a $36 million company that’s only been in business about five years. It sells a “lineup of beef jerky offerings with no artificial ingredients,” and is on an even faster growth trajectory. Krave’s founder told The Post he “expects Krave to more than double its business next year.”

To put this into perspective, jerky, according to market research firm IRI, is now about a $1.5 billion industry, up 46 percent since 2009. The Post says part of this is attributed to an overall rise in the snack market in the U.S.—it’s now a $120 billion industry.

Likely a bigger contributing factor is the skyrocketing popularity of protein. The Post says protein shakes and bars are in high demand, as is jerky, due to its high protein content and low calorie count—not to mention its portability. The fact that Paleo diets are still popular undoubtedly plays a big role here as well.

The lessons here are many. If you sell snacks, make sure you’ve got lots of jerky on hand. You might also stock it in gyms, food trucks and at sporting events.

If you’re really ambitious, Krave’s relatively quick rise from nothing to $36 million in sales in five years is an inspiring story. If jerky indeed has a bright future, it’s likely there’s room for more entrepreneurial  players to enter the jerky industry.

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at rieva@smallbizdaily.com, follow her on Google+   and Twitter.com/Rieva.

Photo courtesy:  Krave