business news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

If bacon could borrow a line from Mark Twain, it would be thus:

“The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”

The restaurant guide Zagat recently declared that a survey of 10,700 diners in 17 major American cities deemed they were so “over” bacon and kale.

The story popped up on my newsfeed as I also read about New Hampshire’s first scratch-n-sniff bacon scented lottery ticket, some 15,000 fans attending the Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival in Des Moines last month and a bacon-flavored hot sauce in the spotlight at the Winter Fancy Foods show in San Francisco.

I would concur that kale has lost its “power green” mojo and is on the wane. But bacon? Over, or still sizzling?

Judging by industry stats and bacon’s presence on social media, I would have to go with the Mark Twain line.

Bacon sales in the U.S. have increased steadily over the past four years, and in 2013 reached nearly $4 billion. The USDA expects hog prices in 2015 to be 18% lower than last year, which translates into good news for consumers.

But you get a truer sense of bacon’s staying power on social media. Sample Facebook responses to the Zagat survey were:

“Never over bacon. Never.” and “No, we are soooooooo over Zagat!”

A Google-plus search of bacon forecasts that interest in the salted meat will continue to increase. When the hip men’s digital site listed the Y2K food trends that are still relevant 15 years later, bacon was pronounced king – along with craft beers, food labeling, Budweiser ads and Danny Meyer. A survey of Twitter mentions found bacon conquered kale across the U.S. – particularly in Republican-leaning red states (no surprise there).

And one of’s hot Valentine’s Day lists was, you guessed it, “10 Valentine’s Day Gifts to Make for the Bacon Lover in Your Life.” The list included some wacky-bordering-on-yucky bacon items, such as bacon and beer cupcakes and chocolate dipped bacon “roses.” But the gourmet bacon salt caught my eye – particularly since one of the bacon lovers in my family had recently parked a bacon sea salt trio in our shopping cart.

Which leads to the key takeaway on food trends – it’s all about expanding and extrapolating the ingredient. Packaged bacon itself is now available in multiple slice choices, cures, cuts and sodium levels. New bacon-laced products range from the classic Ritz Bacon crackers to the aforementioned Bacon Hot Sauce, co-mingling two “hot” flavors. Or the gluten-free, dairy-free bacon chocolate cookie recipe just posted on Clearly, it’s not just for breakfast anymore.

The same applies to Greek yogurt, which has overtaken the yogurt case and can now been found in salad dressings, dips, energy bars and even coating pretzels. And sriracha, a once-exotic hot sauce that is now a Heinz ketchup flavor and Subway sandwich special.

And as for lottery tickets? New Hampshire’s is the first bacon scented scratch-and-sniff lottery ticket. Colorado tried other scents, which were not a success. Virginia has a $2 bacon lover’s ticket, but with no scent. A New Hampshire official said sales of the $1 ticket with a $1,000 prize have far exceeded expectations, noting "Everybody likes bacon, and people who don't like bacon are almost afraid to admit it."

And if you’re feeling guilty about enjoying a perfectly-cooked piece of bacon, just heed this advice from Mark Twain:

“Part of the secret of success in life is to eat what you like and let the food fight it out inside.”

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