OMAHA – New bacon product ideas for Tyson Foods’ 400,000-sq.-ft. Omaha, Neb., bacon facility can come from anyone — from customers to the company’s internal product management team and anywhere in between, said Steve Goll, Tyson Foods’ director of R&D.

“We take different new product ideas and cast a fairly wide net on, let’s say, different flavors for products we will evaluate in the Discovery Center,” he said.

In creating a new bacon flavor, Tyson’s Discovery Center team begins with bench-top testing and screening perhaps 30 or more samples of different flavors. Once initial screening with the internal team is done, products for testing are culled down to 10 or 15 flavors. Next, the new product team will go to the Discovery Center pilot plant to make samples and further screen down the number of products.

“Next, we go to the Omaha bacon facility with three to five sample ideas and work with Brian Chrisman’s [Bacon Complex Manager, Consumer Products] team,” he adds. “The beauty of this is we’re not tying up our production facilities and interrupting their production schedules to screen samples.”

The Discovery Center team works very collaboratively with the Omaha bacon plant to understand early on what are their capabilities, capacities and requirements for everything from raw material to actual processes and packaging, Goll said. “As part of the developmental process, they’re thinking about what brines, flavorings, equipment and more might be needed to execute against new product ideas,” he said.

Tyson’s new-product team ultimately makes a minimum batch size at the Omaha complex. “[Plant personnel] are now running the show with Tyson R&D supervision,” Goll said. “We then bring those samples back to the internal product management team in Springdale for review. There may be some modifications, and there usually are. We might have to return to the production plant with some tweaks or return to the Discovery Center to conduct more testing before we return to the production facility.

“We have a lot of passion for our bacon product line,” he added. “There are some real neat things going on and a lot is around unique flavors. We recently introduced a Steakhouse Style bacon, Bourbon Barbecue bacon and Brown Sugar Glaze bacon under the Wright brand [which are produced at Tyson’s Texas bacon complex].”

Most bacon produced at Tyson’s Omaha bacon complex is private-label. “Each private-label customer wants their own customized flavors, thicknesses, packaging graphics, etc.,” Goll says. “We have to stay on top of our game to accommodate our many customers, but that’s the business we’re in and we know what side our bread is buttered on.”

Looking forward, Goll says there is a lot of excitement, energy and passion around flavored bacon. “It’s all about taking something that’s already a tremendous food product and making it even better,” he concludes.

(Read more about Tyson Foods’ Omaha bacon complex in the October issue of Meat&Poultry magazine.)