The Bacon Boom
By Sam Gazdziak, Senior Editor
Low-carb diets may fade away, but bacon's popularity shows no signs of slowing down.
Bacon is a natural complement to any breakfast. But what about bacon on a burger? Bacon on a pizza? Bacon on a salad? At homes and restaurants, when a meal needs a little something extra, bacon is becoming the ingredient of choice.
According to the National Pork Board (NPB), more than two billion pounds of bacon are produced in the United States each year. With bacon sales predicted to grow by 15 percent between 2002 and 2007, the market for this pork product is positively sizzling.
“Bacon's main strength continues to be its wonderful flavor profile,” says Karen Boillot, director, retail marketing, for the National Pork Board. “Consumers today are using bacon, in addition to traditional uses, as a 'flavor enhancer.'”
Demographically speaking, bacon's appeal is equally divided between men and women and crosses all age groups. While an NPD Group study noted that consumers between the ages of 35 and 49 make up most of the bacon consumption, a solid 34 percent of bacon is consumed by people aged 34 or younger.
Bacon's nutritional value is an important part of its appeal, as the NPB notes that two slices of bacon has around 70 calories and six grams of fat. During the rise of the low-carb diet, bacon rose right along with it. Overall retail sales of bacon crossed the $2 billion threshold in 2003, up from $1.8 billion in 2002. Times have changed, though, and so have consumers' diets. Atkins Nutritionals Inc., one of the companies that led the low-carb diet craze, filed for bankruptcy in August, due to waning interest in its' namesake diet. But bacon's popularity has been unaffected.
Darin Dugan, category business director, breakfast meats, for Oscar Mayer, Madison, WI, says, “Recently, the low-carb diet trend that had an effect on the category has somewhat subsided now. However, overall consumption of bacon continues to increase in total between retail and foodservice.”
Kristen Clemmer, director of marketing for Fresh Mark Inc., Canton, OH, concurs. “Even though the popularity of the protein diet has decreased, the increased interest in bacon has not. Also, I believe the increased use of bacon as a sandwich topping in the foodservice arena has peaked the consumer's appetite for bacon in general.” NP