There are so many uses for bacon. I’m only going to mention a few specific ones and instead make suggestions to help the savvy-bacon processor find new opportunities and product innovations that can help expand bacon sales by fulfilling the growing applications for their culinary-minded customers.
Breakfast and brunch
Besides the many egg dishes that incorporate bacon, such as omelets and shirred eggs, small cubes of bacon are incorporated into pancakes, waffles, muffins, turnovers, quick breads and breakfast pizzas. These small cubes are particularly desirable in corn pancakes and waffles, potato pancakes and hash browns.
The opportunity here is to produce small cubes (about one-quarter inch square) of lightly browned bacon, not crumbled bacon, which lacks character and texture. Once browned and drained, they can be individually quick frozen (IQF) and sold frozen in bags. These cubes can also be coated with various sweet glazes, including maple syrup, brown sugar, fruit juices, soy, sweet mustard or many other flavors.
Thin-sliced, narrow strips of bacon can be wrapped around small chunks of sweet or savory foods. The classic is rumaki, chunks of poultry liver and water chestnuts wrapped in bacon with a sweet soy glaze. Other popular choices are dates, prunes, figs, dried apricots or pineapple.
Strips of bacon or pancetta (Italian spice-flavored bacon) can also be wrapped around seafood, such as shrimp, scallops, oysters or mussels plus wrapped around chicken cubes, sausage or chicken wings. Vegetables such as squash, asparagus or even radishes are also good pairings. The opportunity for opportunistic bacon processors is to sell thinly sliced, narrow bacon strips one-half inch wide by 5-inch long in small packages.
Other popular appetizers are kebabs consisting of small chunks of bacon skewered with seafood, meats, vegetables, fruits and even bread. Since the bacon often takes longer to cook than the other ingredients on the skewer, it would be great to have bacon chunks one-half inch by 1-inch by 1-inch that have already been fully cooked and lightly browned at the processing plant. They would be sold IQF and bagged.
Squealing over salads
Bacon has found its way into many different salads from the classic spinach salad to the French salad, Frisee Lyonnaise. Many combinations of salad greens, kales, fruits, eggs, nuts and vegetables made into a salad can be greatly enhanced with the addition of bacon.
The classic form for using bacon is what the French call Lardons, which are small rectangular finger-shaped strips of bacon. In France, they are sold in every supermarket in sealed plastic trays. Not only are Lardons used in salads, they are also popular in soups, stews, braises and used to flavor cooked vegetables. I think there is a real opportunity to sell bacon as Lardons in the US because they now have so many uses in popular American recipes as well. Since most recipes call for a small amount of bacon (one-quarter to one-half of a lb.), the most practical idea would be to sell them in small 8-oz. trays.
Bacon-flavored mayonnaise, barbecue sauce, hot sauce, mustard and dips are already sold in the retail marketplace. Unless you, as a bacon producer, want to get into the sauce business, it would be better to sell bacon as an ingredient to an existing sauce company or work with them to produce a co-branded sauce. This could also be a possible market for rendered bacon fat.
Soups, pastas and stews
Bacon is used in many versions of these dishes from the classic Italian Pasta Carbonara to the French Coq au Vin. The opportunity is to provide pre-cooked lardoons either partially or fully cooked.
The other culinary opportunity is to vary the flavor profile of the bacon to accommodate a particular cuisine. For Chinese dishes, adding hoisin, soy, ginger and five spice to the cure, for example. For Italian dishes, adding balsamic vinegar, garlic and rosemary to the cure can bolster flavors. And for Spanish dishes, rubbing the pork bellies with Spanish paprika (pimento de la vera) and add sherry to the cure delivers a bold ethnic flavor accent.