Mention Oscar Mayer and many people likely think first of hot dogs, the famous Wiener Song that originated in the 1960s, the Wienermobile and now the Wienerfleet. However, the iconic company is also famous for another product: its bacon. In fact, Oscar Mayer is the biggest seller of bacon in the United States.
“For 100 years, Oscar Mayer has been setting the gold standard for bacon by providing a superior quality, great tasting product that cooks up perfectly every time,” says Matt Riezman, associate director for marketing for Oscar Mayer, in an interview with MEAT+POULTRY. And thanks to America’s continuing love affair with bacon, over the years Oscar Mayer has expanded the number of bacon varieties it offers.
In fact, it’s been more than 100 years since Oscar F. Mayer opened his first Oscar Mayer shop in Chicago. Oscar got his start in a retail meat market as a 14-year-old boy who moved to the United States from Bavaria in Germany. He answered a “Help Wanted” poster for an apprenticeship at a butcher shop in Detroit, working as a “butcher boy.” Shortly after that, he moved with his brother to Chicago to work in the retail industry. Little did he know at the time that he’d one day combine the two industries – meat and retail – and the rest is history.
The company has been making bacon for more than 90 years, with its bacon manufacturing headquartered in Coshocton, Ohio. Oscar Mayer was the first company to slice and package bacon for retail sales in 1924. In 1973, the company promoted the use of the package “back window” so customers could see the quality of the meat. The bacon comes from pig bellies, and the bellies are a mix of lean and fat. Bacon is a simple food product, and goes through the stages of curing, brine and sugar, smoking in real hardwood, and finally packaging.
“Oscar Mayer offers a wide variety of flavors and cuts for all taste preferences,” Reizman points out. They include the Center Cut Original, Naturally Hardwood Smoked, Maple, Brown Sugar and Turkey Bacon. “Over this past year, consumers have been able to enjoy exciting new varieties in both the raw and ready-to-serve bacon lines, such as Oscar Mayer Maple Bourbon Bacon, made with real Evan Williams Bourbon,” Reizman says. “Or Oscar Mayer Cracked Black Pepper Bacon, available as both raw or ready-to-serve for those who desire a more convenient, less messy way to get their flavored bacon.”
There’s also Oscar Mayer Selects Natural Uncured Bacon. “This bacon has no artificial ingredients and is minimally processed,” Riezman notes. “There are also no artificial preservatives, no added nitrites or nitrates, except those naturally occurring in celery juice or sea salt. It’s gluten-free and no added hormones. Federal guidelines prohibit the use of hormones in pork,” he says. Some bacons use a mixture of malt, birch and beechwood from Northern Wisconsin.
Oscar Mayer’s most popular bacon is – you guessed it – the company’s most traditional bacon: Naturally Hardwood Smoked Bacon. Why? “I think there are a lot of consumers who like to stick with tradition. Maybe they’ve been eating this type of bacon for most of their lives. They love it, so why should they change?” he asks. When it comes to foods, he thinks, many people like to eat what they’ve always eaten – follow a tradition they’ve built in their lives.
Plus, bacon certainly qualifies as one of the ultimate comfort foods. Which ties in with reasons why bacon has become so popular and continues to grow in popularity. One reason is the tradition and comfort that bacon brings to eating. But another reason is at the opposite end of the spectrum: interest in new flavors and new foods, as well as making use of older foods in new ways.
“The popularity of bacon has continued to increase as consumer interest in new flavors grows,” Riezman says. “And bacon lovers find new ways to use and to cook bacon outside of the traditional breakfast mealtime. So, we continue to deliver our bacon in a variety of cuts and flavors.”
“Because of the growing interest in bacon outside of breakfast, we’ve launched new products to help inspire further usage (of bacon), whether it’s within salads, sandwiches, brunch or beyond. We’re also seeing consumers gravitate towards bolder flavors in their meats, including bacon,” Riezman says. “We’re constantly listening to what our consumers – our retailers and shoppers – think and want, so we can expand our offerings to cater to what they’d like to see on the market. And we take pride in offerings our bacons at an accessible price for our customers.”
Oscar Mayer bacon ranks among the top of its performers, along with its hot dogs and cold cuts. Today, the company is owned by the Kraft Heinz Food Group.