For bacon-loving consumers whose appetites are appeased by the offerings in most retail cases, but are always on the lookout for the more obscure hidden gems in the pork belly world, Jon Jakoblich, CEO of Bacon Scouts Inc. literally delivers.
Jakoblich, a bacon aficionado, is constantly scouring the industry tasting and testing premium bacon products that he offers on his website, www.baconscouts.com. Jakoblich, an entrepreneur himself, focuses on the artisan-type processors and typically features just a handful of products from what are usually small companies that are making big differences in the bacon landscape.
Bacon Business, a MEAT+POULTRY publication, got Jakoblich talking about bacon curation in a world of e-commerce.
BACON BUSINESS: What is Bacon Scouts?
|Jon Jakoblich, CEO of Bacon Scouts Inc.
Jon Jakoblich: Bacon Scouts is a provider of great bacon for people who desire high quality food. We equip award winning, small meat markets to be able to deliver their products to more customers.
When and how did you come up with the idea and what was the goal for your endeavor?
It started as a hobby with my father-in-law who would visit different meat markets and he would come to family gatherings with armfuls of delicious smoked meats. The quality of these meats was something special, especially since I was used to buying my cuts from the supermarket. The bacon was something that stood out for both of us, so I had the idea to start a blog featuring bacon from different meat markets we would discover on our travels. As we covered more and more meat markets I had the idea of trying to find a way to connect gourmet food fans with the finest bacon available and the e-commerce operation was born. The blog was launched in May 2013 and the store was opened in February 2015. Our goal is to be the most trusted source for ordering gourmet meats in America.
Is this a full-time job for you; do you see it being a full-time job in the future?
Jakoblich: I’d love for this to be a full-time job. I really enjoy sharing my discoveries with other people and it gives me great joy to hear how amazed people are when they try gourmet bacon for the first time.
How is this similar or different from some of the other bacon clubs such as bacon of the month?
Jakoblich: There is definitely a lot of competition in this space, not only from experienced meat processors themselves, but also from other startups trying to sell food online.
We set the threshold very high in considering the products we sell on our website. If it doesn’t absolutely blow us away, we won’t sell it. I’ve actually tried many of the bacon of the month clubs out there and I have to say I came away disappointed with all of them. Many of them deliver very fatty, very average tasting bacon from larger companies that have big wholesale departments.
What makes Bacon Scouts different is that we truly have taken the time to visit each one of our meat market partners to sample their products, get to know them, and to carefully select which products we will sell. It is the first of its kind bacon curation service. Our competitors haven’t actually put in the time to research the best meat markets like we have.
Also, unlike my competitors, I never touch the products. I don’t keep stock in a warehouse; the meats are shipped directly from the meat markets to ensure the freshest possible product. Sometimes it is so fresh that it was just finished curing the day before it is shipped.
By the way, we will be launching our own Bacon of the Month Club very soon. Keep checking baconscouts.com for details.
What is your background? Have you work in the food business before?
Jakoblich: My background is in managing day-to-day operations of small companies and I have also done web development on the side for more than a decade. Great food has always been important to me. I have a passion for quality sourcing of food, supporting small food producers, and eating food with incredible flavors. The business side of food is new to me and I have learned quite a bit during the past couple years thanks to the kind and generous people that I have met along the way.
I noticed a select number of bacon companies are featured on the site. How do you decide on the companies you feature; do you approach the companies or vice versa?
Jakoblich: This is the secret sauce of Bacon Scouts so I can’t give away too much, but what I can tell you is that it comes down to quality of product. Many times I like to find meat markets that offer something unique or different; there are only so many possible varieties of hickory smoked bacon before one becomes nearly indistinguishable from another.
Woods Smoked Meats offers quite a few flavors I had never seen anywhere else before, such as Chipotle Lime flavored bacon. Also, Grand Champion Meats got me hooked with a Pumpkin Pie Spiced bacon (which we currently do not sell), but we do sell their Dill Pickle flavored bacon (seasonal) and it is also excellent. Nolechek’s Meats offers a unique twist on their hickory smoked bacon with that touch of honey they put into their recipe. Recently they’ve taken home some significant awards within the state of Wisconsin and have received some international recognition too. RJ’s Meats is clearly a top-shelf producer of meats and their bacon overall is incredible. The owner of RJ’s Meats, Rick Reams, was the first to commit to selling with Bacon Scouts. So far it has been a mix of me approaching the companies and of them approaching me. In the end, the product has to meet our quality standards before we decide to move forward and do business together.
How long are the company’s products featured on your site and plan if ever do you change the feature companies?
Jakoblich: We will feature their products as long as they are in stock and the companies would like to continue to do business with us. Right now we are concentrated with vendors from the Midwest and we’ll be looking to add more suppliers as our customer base increases.
What is the arrangement you have with the companies you feature in terms of ordering and shipping and how do you charge?
Jakoblich: I created a streamlined e-commerce system for meat markets. E-commerce can be a pain to set up and manage for smaller meat producers because it requires having to find a way to get a lot of different systems talking to each other in order to be successful. I designed Bacon Scouts to be a simple, one-stop shop for meat markets to be able to sell online and fulfill orders. We equip the meat markets with everything they need so that they can continue to focus on creating their high quality meats while serving more customers.
How do you market your site both to bacon companies and to consumers?
Jakoblich: Right now the focus is strictly online marketing to consumers. We’ve had great success with a mix of content marketing, social media, paid ads, word of mouth, and free bacon giveaways. Every day we learn more about what works and what doesn’t and we continue to refine our processes. We have something really awesome in the works to kick off our own Bacon of the Month Club very soon. Although I can’t say much about it right now, all of us at Bacon Scouts HQ are very excited for the upcoming launch.
How much bacon do you ship in a given month and our shipments and orders growing?
Jakoblich: Right now we’re deliberately growing gradually and we’ll continue to grow as we reach more people.
Do you plan to sell other products on your website including non-bacon products?
Jakoblich: Bacon is the core product for us, but many of our meat markets also have chosen to sell bratwursts, summer sausage, and snack sticks with us. We are currently evaluating non-food products and hopefully will be rolling those out in the next 6-12 months.
I noticed you also review some of the companies you feature on your site. What are some of the more interesting stories you've heard about the companies and their products?
Jakoblich: I think what has been fascinating for me is learning how some of these businesses came to be what they are today. Nolechek’s is a third generation operation, whereas RJ’s Meats was known by a different name before Rick Reams purchased the business after he had worked there for a few years. A lot of these men and women just took their skills and never stopped learning and improving. We all benefit from their decades of hard work by being able to eat such amazing food. They’re all a little competitive too. They all know each other, but they like to compete and take home bragging rights at regional and national meat competitions. Most of all, they share their knowledge and help each other improve. There is a great community of meat processors out there who really have a passion for what they do.