BALTIMORE – Pork rinds are getting a premium makeover. At least two exhibitors at Natural Products Expo East, held Sept. 21-24 in Baltimore, unveiled upscale twists on the classic gas station snack.
Epic Provisions, the Austin, Texas-based maker of meat-based products, is launching Pork Rinds and Cracklings made with pork raised without antibiotics and produced with no artificial preservatives or flavorings. The brand, which is a subsidiary of General Mills, is offering pork rinds in barbecue seasoning and sea salt and pepper flavors as well as a maple bacon variety of pork cracklings. The products, which are made from a blend of organic, non-GMO, pastured and antibiotic-free pork, underscore Epic Provisions’ nose-to-tail commitment of utilizing the whole animal to reduce waste. The brand also has added animal cooking fats and bone broths to its portfolio of meat bars and bites.
Ryan Farr, a San Francisco-based butcher and restaurant chef, has been peddling premium pork rinds for seven years. His brand, 4505 Chicharrones, showcased new packaging and flavors at Expo East. Varieties include classic chili and salt, smokehouse barbecue and jalapeño cheddar. The company uses high-quality cuts of humanely raised pork with no added antibiotics or hormones and kettle cooks the rinds in lard to further minimize waste.
“Pork rinds have had a bad rap in the past,” Farr said. “For us, it’s really important the consumer knows we are aware of every step of the process and we only work with family farms. It’s really important to point out to consumers this has 0 grams of carbs, 9 grams of protein, it’s paleo certified, gluten-free, humanely raised. These things are really important to consumers these days.”
Could premium pork rinds be the next evolution of the gourmet jerky phenomenon, an industry that surged 12 percent in 2014 and today stands at $1.3 billion in sales? As a high-protein, convenient packaged snack with a nice sustainability story, pork rinds are well aligned with consumer trends. High-quality ingredients and flavor innovation will only elevate the category.
“How big will it get? I don’t know. But definitely we’re seeing some brands that support a premium position coming out with fun, innovative flavors of pork rinds. I’m a consumer, so I love it.”