It’s what you might call a sweet deal: in an agreement estimated to be worth $200–300 million, chocolate giant Hershey has acquired Krave, a company founded by Jon Sebastiani ’12 that makes all-natural, uniquely flavored meat jerky (think “Black Cherry Barbecue” pork, “Basil Citrus” turkey, and “Cabernet Rosemary” beef — an homage to Sebastiani’s family wine business). Sebastiani, who launched Krave in 2009 when he was training for a marathon and looking for a healthy, protein-filled snack to fuel his runs, will continue to run the company as an independent business unit of Hershey’s from its headquarters in Sonoma, California.
This is Hershey’s first foray into the non-confection snack market — a move that Sebastiani is eager to pioneer for the sweets maker. After all, the meat-snack category is currently worth $2.5 billion and is growing about 25 percent annually, Krave and Hershey say.
What does Hershey see in Krave?
Hershey recognizes that snacking is changing the way Americans consume foods — America is not eating sit-down meals during the day anymore. They are interested in Krave and our products because protein is becoming a far more essential ingredient in [the grab-and-go snacks] we eat every day. Together, we’re going to build a [healthy snacking] platform that we hope will extend beyond Krave and beyond just jerky.
How does being acquired by Hershey help Krave achieve its goals?
By joining with Hershey we get access to a world-class supply-side framework: Our growth can be supported by procurement teams and by continual investment into our commercialized manufacturing process, and our innovation pipeline can be supported by teams of engineers. Secondly, we are a small brand — we have 75 employees. Servicing [a retail giant like] Walmart is very different [and has] very different needs than servicing a grocery channel like FreshDirect or Wegmans. To have such an army of talented, knowledgeable salespeople and merchandising people [from Hershey] will give the brand tremendous leverage. We will have broad coverage of all the channels — whether we’re [in] a grocery store in Bozeman, Montana, or Miami, Florida, our brand will always be merchandized properly with fresh products on the shelves. Those are things that 75 people can’t do.
What’s next for Krave?
Krave is launching into a network of over 120,000 convenience stores this spring. We will have new flavors coming out this summer. And we are going to innovate beyond just the jerky that we have today. This fall we will be releasing a meat bar, where we will layer in fruits, vegetables, and grains. The basic thesis is that we will provide a bar with more protein, less sugar, and fewer carbohydrates than a Lara Bar, Luna Bar, or Clif Bar. My goal is to continue to lead this category’s renaissance with [Krave’s team of] highly agile, passionate, entrepreneurial, driven people.