Before Bridgewater, New Jersey-based Applegate Natural and Organic Meats launched its No Sugar Bacon in August, the Hormel Foods Corp. subsidiary company wanted to make sure there was legitimate demand from its loyal customer base for a bacon produced with no sugar. “We did a Facebook post asking our 1.3 million followers if they thought we should do a no-sugar bacon and the response was very positive,” says Maria Balice, director of communications for Applegate. “The post generated more than 1,200 comments.”
With nine SKUs of natural bacon products including Naturals Good Morning Bacon, Naturals Sunday Bacon, Naturals Thick Cut Bacon, Naturals Reduced Sodium Bacon, Naturals Turkey Bacon, Organics Sunday Bacon, Organics Turkey Bacon, the new Naturals No Sugar Bacon and Whole Foods Market exclusive Organic Reduced Sodium Bacon, Applegate boasts the No. 1 natural bacon brand in the natural channel, as well as the No. 1 natural bacon brand in the grocery conventional channel, according to Nicole Glenn, vice president of marketing.
Applegate’s ability to successfully put humanely raised, natural and organic pork raised with no antibiotics, into the marketplace starts with raw materials and continues through the entire process and production with multiple co-processors, before hitting customers’ shelves and consumers’ plates.
Better for your bacon
Applegate uses a network of family farms throughout the US to source most of the raw materials for its production with some of the organic pork coming from Canada, as well. The company takes pride in its sourcing of raw materials and commitment to high standards in animal welfare.
“We feel that those are some of our strongest attributes and that sets us apart from a lot of other players in the natural channel who may have claims of nitrate and nitrite free, and also no antibiotics,” Balice says. “We also have very high animal welfare standards.” Ninety-two percent of Applegate’s current pork supply comes from Global Animal Partnership (GAP)-compliant or Certified Humane producers ensuring high animal welfare standards are maintained, she adds.
Applegate’s high-standards of quality, natural and organic bacons fit in perfectly with the continuing trend of health-conscious eating, as well as the trend of flavorful foods. And while almost all of its business takes place in retail – currently only 1.5 percent of bacon products go to foodservice – the future looks bright for Applegate bacons in foodservice.
“We are getting a lot of inquiries from foodservice because I think the movement toward more natural, cleaner, higher animal welfare offerings is trickling into foodservice, into restaurants and into quick service,” Balice says. “So, people are clamoring for it, not only to buy it retail, but to have it served to them in restaurants and other settings.”
Balice believes Hormel’s acquisition of the company in 2015 provides leverageable resources for Applegate to expand further into foodservice. “Hormel does an incredible foodservice business,” she says. As a smaller company with less expertise in foodservice, the ability to tap into Hormel’s knowledge in that segment could translate into future growth.
Glenn says many of the new diet trends and health tribes give her confidence that cleaner bacon produced under strict animal welfare standards will grow alongside the healthier eating trends and movement toward more socially conscious food production, and Applegate’s new No Sugar Bacon fits into both of those silos.
“I do think bacon is one of those great indulgences,” Glenn says. “It’s not necessarily considered healthy, but it is a great protein source. I think you marry ‘I really want that wonderful taste and that indulgence,’ with ‘I’m getting my protein, but I’m also removing the sugar.’ So, I think as consumers’ consciousness kind of awakens around what’s in their food and where it comes from, products like these will continue to grow.”
Applegate’s associate product manager, Leah Sbriscia, agrees. “Bacon as a whole is a $4.3 billion industry and it’s on track to surpass $5 billion by 2020,” she says. “It’s continuing to grow and we believe these no sugar products, these offerings that speak to people that are following certain high protein diets whether that’s paleo, or part of a health tribe or Whole30, are really going to help to continue to grow the category.”