In this video interview, CEO Howard Bender discusses how much Schmacon has grown domestically and internationally as well as what the future holds for beef’s answer to bacon.

Andy Hanacek: Howard, thanks so much for having me out here. I was out here a couple years ago when you won that FABI award for Schmacon. I wanted to do a follow up real quick and see how everything was going. You guys had some grand plans at retail, so let’s jump into it first with retail. Talk about the success of Schmacon in retail over the last couple years. What have you guys done to push that along and what results have you gotten?

Howard Bender: It started out of the NRA show and the FABI award, which was really just an incredible home run for us. We really came out of there focused on foodservice, and now we’re proud to say that we have launched with some significant, big players in foodservice. We are in the major broad liners around the country, and as you said, retail now… so over the course of the last year, we’ve learned a lot about what kind of grocery store is a good fit for Schmacon, who the consumer is despite what our aspirations are or what we think is a good fit for Schmacon. We get that it is not for everybody, but it really is a product for the masses. It’s a great alternative to pork bacon, but it stands on its own as beef. As we have launched now into major retailers, we started in the Midwest, right here in Chicago with some small independents, and now we’re in some major—is it OK if I mention some names?—we’re in some major retailers. We are in some specialty natural meat sections and the top Jewel stores in the Chicago metropolitan area. We’re in Fresh Thyme Markets, which is really an amazing partner around the Midwest in their grocery stores from Minnesota down to Missouri. They’ve just done a spectacular job and are a great partnership with us as we are learning to launch our product in the best ways possible. Schmacon is a no-nitrite nitrate. Schmacon is an all-natural ingredient. Schmacon is really a natural flavor, all-beef, whole-muscle product. When you go into a grocery store and you get the opportunity to demo and show it to customers, the sell-through has been spectacular.

Hanacek: You said you started in the Midwest and expanded from there. Are there any parts of the country or even [international]—and now I know you are going global with Schmacon—that you are finding more success than other areas?

Bender: Certainly, we’re in Central Markets, which are the crème de la crème of the HEB grocery store chain, and Schmacon is down there in Texas where everything is bigger and beef is king. Beef is beef, so we’ve had a lot of fun in Texas. I think that we will eventually get into all of the HEB stores, but right now we’ve started proving ourselves in Central Markets. It’s going great. We’re talking with a couple of the club stores. I think one of the opportunities this has lent us is that in the United States right now as we have better found who our consumer is, now we are able to start accelerating our growth from where we are in a big way. You mentioned “global”… we signed our first whole brand agreement with, in my opinion, the strongest beef brand there is, and we launched that product just recently in the Middle East. We have all of our facilities now Halal certified, and we are able to from the U.S. domestic market receive Halal meats as we need to, but [since] we’ve launched in the Middle East, it’s been a spectacular start with some big, key hotel chains and now with some multi-national restaurant chains, as well we are working with a major retailer in Canada to be expected to be in the Canadian market in the fall as well.

Hanacek: So you kind of hinted at the future. Look into your crystal ball, and obviously, the goal is to continue building foodservice and continue building retail. Is there any big targets you have? Anything you want to make happen in the next year or two?

Bender: It’s actually a phrase and a comment we said early, early on. Desensitizing the public, desensitizing the consumer that walks into the grocery store looking for any kind of bacon [so that we] gain a comfort of beef belonging in that category. Up until now, beef bacon—no offense to the guys that have done it before—we are not big fans of that product. We have a patent pending on a process of making this product, and we think it is great. So it is the same goal we started with, which is to desensitize the public and make it very accessible to them whether it is in a restaurant or a pancake joint and they see pork, turkey, beef [bacon]. We want everybody to have the access to a great product like this. We call it Schmacon, beef’s answer to bacon. You can use any of those clichés, but really at the end of the day, the benefits are extraordinary.

Hanacek: I will obviously keep in touch and stay in tune.

Bender: There’s big announcements coming up. I’ll say that.

BONUS: Mark Gwin, Integration Management Specialist, Certified Angus Beef LLC, describes what Schmacon is and why cattlemen should care. Here’s the clip: