Bellies Up

Bacon category growth continues, thanks to the popularity of fully-cooked bacon products, high-protein diets, and an increased presence on foodservice menus.
From microwave-ready and fully-cooked varieties, to flavorful, fresh alternatives, bacon’s popularity continues to grow. Retail refrigerated bacon sales for the year ending May 15, 2005, increased 1.3 percent over the year prior, topping off at more than $2.12 billion. And that doesn’t include precooked bacon, an increasingly profitable category for bacon processors.
Brand leader Oscar Mayer Foods, a Madison, WI-based division of Kraft Foods Inc., recently augmented its Ready to Serve Bacon with Canadian Style Bacon, a heat-and-serve product packaged in a patented recloseable pouch, for example. The Canadian Style Bacon, which has 60 calories for every three-slice serving and can be prepared in less than 60 seconds in the microwave, is endorsed by the South Beach Diet.
“Since we lead such busy lives, many of us forgo our favorite breakfast foods in order to get our days jump-started,” explains Joe Fragnito, brand manager for Oscar Mayer. “Since we do all the cooking for these tasty, new ready-to-serve meats [a new pork sausage patty variety also was launched], people can once again enjoy a fast and convenient breakfast any day they choose.”
Top 10 Refrigerated Bacon Brands*
  Dollar Sales ($ millions) Dollar Sales %
Change Prior Year
Dollar Share Unit Sales
Unit Sales %
Change Prior Year
1. Private Label 401.6 2.6 18.9 132.4 -3.7
2. Oscar Mayer 390.7 1.8 18.4 98.5 -4.0
3. Hormel Black Label 144.7 5.6 6.8 40.4 0.1
4. Farmland 70.4 -0.3 3.3 22.1 -7.1
5. Bar-S 68.8 -2.9 3.2 24.7 -8.3
6. Gwaltney 66.3 0.3 3.1 23.9 -6.5
7. Wright 62.3 -0.0 2.9 9.2 -7.8
8. Smithfield 61.6 3.5 2.9 20.3 -4.7
9. Louis Rich 57.4 5.9 2.7 19.7 2.1
10. Hormel 53.5 -1.0 2.5 11.7 -2.3
Total Category 2,124.3 1.3 100 654.8 -4.3
*Total U.S. supermarkets, drug stores, and mass merchandisers excluding Wal-Mart for the 52 weeks ending May 15, 2005.
Source: Information Resources Inc.
For its part, Swift & Co., Greeley, CO, also has unveiled a new line of fresh and fully-cooked breakfast meats, including Swift Premium Fully Cooked Pork Bacon Strips in either original or maple flavor. The strips do not require refrigeration before opening, offering retailers increased merchandising options. “Bacon and sausage are only as good as the stuff they’re made from,” notes Bill McClellan, vice president of customer development for Swift & Co. “Our bacon is made using the freshest, highest quality pork for indulgent bacon flavor.”
Foodservice bacon sizzles
Promoting its bacon to foodservice operators, Springdale, AR-based Tyson Foods recently made available a new brochure entitled “99 Ways to Bacon It Better,” offering easy ways to enhance menus with Tyson bacon. From salads and sandwiches to Italian entrées and pizzas, the brochure offers ideas that add great flavor and upselling opportunities across all menu parts.
Dick Bond, president and chief operating officer for Tyson Foods, applauded his company for its efforts in product development, also pointing to the importance of its bacon business at the company’s 2005 annual meeting of shareholders. “In addition to our existing business, we are also very proud of the successful product launches and category growth in both bacon and ingredient meat,” he said. “In bacon, we exceeded our one-year in store availability goal of fifty percent on Tyson-branded bacon both offering a ready-to-cook and fully-cooked bacon product.”
Bond also has observed that the company’s Tyson brand has become the No. 2 fully-cooked bacon brand across the country. That’s not to say the company has neglected its fresh bacon business, however. Most recently, Tyson Foods introduced Tyson Ready to Cook Hickory Bacon.
Austin, MN-based Hormel Foods’ consumer-friendly fully-cooked bacon packaging, meanwhile, features recloseable zippers and preprinted film that provides essential product information. Hormel recently extended its bacon toppings line with Hormel Premium Real Crumbled Bacon, formulated with 100-percent real bacon and packaged in a resealable pouch, rather than a traditional canister. The company’s extensive bacon offerings range from smoked, center cut, lower sodium, and maple bacon, to fully-cooked, thick slice, microwave-ready, peppered, and sugar cure varieties. NP