BACON: AMERICA'S FAVORITE FOOD
Bacon. A tasty side, popular condiment, or standalone comfort food? Although it has been around since the Roman Empire, it was not until the last few decades that bacon has become the force it is today. Considering the more recent transition of restaurants in the U.S. to offer vegan and vegetarian options, we thought it would be nice to discuss the meat that many say will never go out of style. At one time, that last statement was in peril. In 1984, Bacon was on the cover of Time Magazine as the face of America’s cholesterol problem. After the huge decline in pork belly sales and what seemed to be the death of bacon, no one could guess that its media coverage would go way beyond one magazine. Yet there have been enough articles about bacon in the media to start a parody of the Business Insider, the Bacon Insider. This limelight has been of a different sort than the stance Time Magazine took, however, because many of them have been, like this article, about the recent “bacon mania” that has taken over America. Americans, as you know, love bacon. There are bacon shakes, lip balms, shaving creams, deodorants, and every other product of which you can imagine. Bacon has grown to a $4 billion industry and has fundamentally changed the food market. In early America, bacon was just a side dish to be served with eggs or pancakes. 80% of its sales were through retailers to homes, only 20% to restaurants. People liked bacon, but it was simply the expendable side that could be dropped if the family could not make it to the local grocery store. Then, in the 1980s, the health movement changed the course of the bacon industry forever. At first pork belly sales suffered immensely. Bacon is almost two-thirds fat, and in a society where everyone is pushing to eat lean and healthy, that isn’t a favorable statistic. Pork bellies got so cheap that the government urged producers to sell them to the Soviet Union and impoverished African countries. The once somewhat popular side got cut off from the American people. This was a time period much like today’s newest movement. People wanted healthier options at their fast food destinations. So the famous McDonalds came up with a plan, they were going to sell the McLean – a burger claiming to be 91% fat-free. It turned out to be the McFlopper. This failed effort should serve as a lesson to all restaurants in America, people don’t just want healthy, they want taste as well. The only difference now is that the new “healthy” options contain no beef at all. In a time with healthy fast food failing, it was realized by companies like Hardees with their Frisco Burger that people want a burger that is so thick with meat that they feel as though they're truly getting their money's worth. People want flavor. People want bacon. By the end of the 1990s, and with the help of Hardees, bacon became known as a flavor enhancer. By 2000, bacon was considered to be the third largest condiment, behind salt and pepper. When companies started allowing the use of bacon to “season to taste” some amazing things started happening for the pork industry and for the restaurants. One Japanese man even ordered a whopper with 1,050 strips of bacon - now that’s commitment! The price of pork bellies per pound rose tremendously. From 1989 to 2006 the cost per pound more than tripled, from 30 cents to over a dollar, and continued to rise. When companies realized the applications of bacon flavoring, the marketplace went crazy. One of the most well-known bacon entrepreneur companies is J & D foods. They first created fairly innovative products with realistic applications like bacon salt and baconnaise that truly utilized the flavor of bacon. Then, they came up with an amazing business strategy. In order to get news and media coverage they created many novelty bacon products that were sure to be attention grabbers. It worked. Bacon ice cream, bacon toothpaste, bacon mints and bacon floss flooded the market. We ate it up. These were fun products, interesting products, which would make great gag gifts and fun experiments with friends. J & D foods, and many other companies that followed their lead, stumbled upon one of the greatest marketing strategies of all time and what is now America’s favorite food. America’s bacon industry will never be the same. Started by a health movement making fast food lack flavor, bacon came in as the flavor savior. Despite vegan/vegetarian movements and health fanatics, bacon is out there and food will never be the same again without it.