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America continues to abandon bread en masse in favor of protein.

As a result, meat snacks like jerky are now surging in popularity.

National Restaurant News’ Bret Thorn reports that meat snack consumption has increased 18 percent over the past five years, citing data from industry research group NPD. And according to a recent New York Times report, jerky sales now account for close to half of the $5.9 billion in sales of what research company Euromonitor calls “other sweet and savory snacks,” basically anything excluding chips.

“All this ruckus stems from consumers' obsession with protein, with snacking, with energy food, with gluten free products and a quest for portability…and never mind big doses of salt and chemical preservatives in most brands,” international food and restaurant consultancy Baum and Whiteman said in a recent report.

Baum and Whiteman cited Hershey’s recent acquisition of jerky-maker Krave as a megafirm trying to capitalize on the trend.

“The Krave brand delivers on portable and protein nutrition while also understanding consumers’ food preferences,” Hershey’s said of the acquisition.

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Of course, Americans are trying to have it both ways when it comes to foods rich in sodium, which most experts agree isn’t great for you in large doses. So they’re turning to turkey jerky, consumption of which has more than doubled in the year to April 2015, Thorn writes.

NPD data show the snacks are being consumed between lunch and dinner and late at night, with adults ages 18-24 most likely to eat them.

“It almost warrants its own category like chips or pretzels at this point, it’s getting so big,” Matthew Hudak, a Euromonitor analyst, told the Times.

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Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.