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Where's the Beef? Slim Jim Facing Shortage

From The New York Post's Peter Lauria: Don't be surprised if Slim Jims start disappearing from convenience store shelves -- lovers of the dried meat snack may start stockpiling them now that production has been halted.

ConAgra, the maker of Slim Jim, hasn't produced any new inventory since an explosion destroyed the only plant in the country that made the beef jerky treat in early June. Three people died in the incident, which appears to have been caused by a gas leak.

The company won't be able to make new Slim Jims for at least another month, which means that, for the time being, there's a finite supply available to sate the appetites of hungry truckers.

And just like the infamous "Seinfeld" episode, in which Elaine begins hoarding the Sponge after the female contraceptive is taken off the market, analysts are bracing for a big summer Slim Jim run.

"People who like [Slim Jim], when they find out that there's a shortage, are going to grab onto them, I'm certain of it," said Harry Balzer, a food industry analyst with NPD Group. "Maybe [Ben] Bernanke should step in with some TARP money because people can't live without their Slim Jims."

That's true, according to food industry consultant Jim Degan.

"[Slim Jims] loyalty is very high," Degan said. "If you eat Slim Jims, you aren't going to find brand B or C to be an acceptable substitute."

The entire meat-snack category generates more than $250 million in sales annually. ConAgra says Slim Jim products generate $200 million in annual sales for the company, meaning that the brand alone is responsible for all but $50 million in meat snack sales.

Tom Pirko, president of industry consulting firm Bevmark, said the promotion probably will boost the brand's image in the short-term. But if it lasts longer than a few months, he said it could prompt customers to switch.

A half-dozen liquor stores in Louisville and Southern Indiana reported Monday that they still had 750-milliliter bottles of Knob Creek available, at prices ranging from $28 to $34. Jerry Rogers, owner of Party Mart, said he's been sold out of travel-sized miniature bottles since late May.

Officials at Southern Wine & Spirits, which distributes Knob Creek in Kentucky, did not respond to several telephone requests for an interview. Until earlier this year, Republic National Distributing Co. handled Knob Creek's local distribution, selling 9,455 cases last year in Kentucky. FULL STORY

 

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