Restaurant Renaissance
By Sam Gazdziak, Senior Editor
The foodservice industry is seeing the appeal of bacon for more than just the breakfast menu items.
Bacon remains the leading breakfast meat in the foodservice industry, but it’s also becoming more prevalent in the rest of the menu as well. According to the NPD Group, growth of bacon has increased 14 percent in meals other than breakfast.
The foodservice industry has helped overall bacon sales grow by adding bacon where it hadn’t been before, such as in flavored sauces, as a flavor enhancer for other proteins, and in salads.
“We see a heavy trend toward bacon as a flavor element, particularly in salads and sandwiches. Most growth in foodservice bacon and bacon pieces is in this area,” notes Kristen Clemmer, director of marketing for Fresh Mark Inc. Canton, OH. Fresh Mark’s Sugardale brand bacon is evenly sold in the retail and foodservice sectors.
Foodservice Research Institute reports that in 1998, 35.1 percent of all bacon use in chain restaurants came from breakfast meals. By 2004, however, that number had dropped to 28.1 percent, as bacon now appears more commonly in other meal items. Sandwiches and burgers are now the leading use for bacon, with salads, pizzas, and entrées also showing considerable growth since 1998.
“It’s interesting that a chain like McDonald’s introduced their new line of premium chicken sandwiches and saw fit to have bacon on two of the three new sandwiches,” notes Jeff Pigott, director, foodservice marketing, for the National Pork Board. “There is an expectation that is created. When you add bacon, it’s going to be a very flavorful and fulfilling sandwich.” He adds that the increased quality and convenience of pre-cooked bacon has made it easier for restaurants to incorporate bacon in other dayparts besides breakfast.
Breakfast remains the domain of bacon, though. In all restaurants, bacon made up 46 percent of all breakfast meat servings. At full-service restaurants, bacon accounted for half of breakfast meat consumption.
“Breakfast has been heavily emphasized by major players within QSR, such as McDonald’s and Burger King. They both have made a renewed emphasis on that for the last couple of years” Pigott says. “Breakfast remains the least-penetrated daypart for foodservice, so there’s still plenty of upside potential there.”
As bacon grows as an important element in meals throughout a restaurant’s menu, different flavor options are being used to make a meal stand out that much more. Flavored bacon is fast becoming a popular option in the foodservice world. “Flavored pre-cooked bacon is the hot new way to add a lot of flavor and excitement to a menu item,” Clemmer says. “A ham sandwich with smoked cheddar cheese and applewood smoked bacon sounds so much more intriguing than just a ham and cheese.” NP