Bacon: An indispensible ingredient in food innovation

Bacon cupcakes, bacon candy, bacon hot sauce, bacon coffee, bacon jerky, chocolate covered bacon strips… bacon, it appears, is one ingredient that the American consumer cannot do without. It’s been around since the beginning of time, but never been applied to so many food products as today.

Mintel Global New Products Database recently listed 38 retail food sub-categories for 2010 new product launches where each product contained the word “bacon” in its description or ingredient statement. The Mintel sub-categories with the most bacon-related launches were meat products, 93; pizzas, 46; sandwiches/wraps, 43; and potato products, 41 (as reported in October 2011 issue of Meat and Poultry magazine, pp. 26-30).

Examples of innovative new products using bacon include Krispy Kreme’s breakfast sandwich made with donuts, and handmade bacon donuts served by Dynamo Donut & Coffee Café in San Francisco.

Other products include bacon cupcakes, bacon candy, bacon hot sauce, bacon coffee, bacon jerky, chocolate covered bacon strips, Bourbon Street Vanilla Bourbon Country Bacon, bacon flavored Altoids, bacon popcorn products, bacon mayonnaise, and Red Neck Turtle burgers wrapped in bacon.

Flavoured bacon products have also become trendy and mainstream like applewood, mesquite and maple, etc. Generally the flavour trends have reflected the wood product used to smoke bacon.

Earlier this year, Denny’s Restaurants began promoting its new bacon-themed menu titled Baconalia: a Celebration of Bacon, featuring heart-stopping delicacies like Bacon Meatloaf and a Maple Bacon Sundae. And while the rationale behind hosting a limited-time bacon feast is easy to understand (Americans love bacon), the advertising behind it (namely, the name of said celebration), for many of those same Americans, might not be understood. Denny’s also offered Bacon Balls, a Bacon Bowl and other taste-tantalizing products.

Although The NPD Group reported total bacon servings held steady over the past two years, they did find that Quick-Service Restaurants (QSR) experienced an increase in bacon food products by 7 percent in 2010 with another 2 percent increase in 2011. Total bacon sales, however, have increased 11.21 percent in the past year (Source: Symphony IRI Group, 2011 October issue Meat & Poultry magazine).

The NPD Group also reported bacon at dinner meals has grown 4.2 percent in 2011.

But why the growth in bacon products? From a product development standpoint, bacon is an American favourite which makes it a low risk ingredient in many new food product innovations. Second, it’s one of the few food products, other than cheese, that can incorporate a “smokey” flavour(s).Third, its salty taste is an easy way to “spice-up” the existing flavour in a new product.

And all of these attributes make bacon a prime candidate for new product innovation: innovative new products that incorporate bacon will continue to be a leading trend in the food industry.