Like other meat products, the bacon category continues to work through the realities of inflation and how it influences American meat consumers’ purchasing habits in 2023.

In the latest data from Circana OmniMarket Integrated Fresh, a Chicago-based market research firm, bacon generated $5.96 billion in sales during the 52-week period ending Aug. 13. During that same time, bacon volume numbers totaled more than 958 million lbs.

Anne-Marie Roerink, principal at San Antonio, Texas-based 210 Analytics LLC, stated that it is not easy to describe bacon’s performance during 2023.

“For instance, in the second quarter of 2023, unit sales improved by 2% and pound sales by 4% as sustained deflation is bringing households that had dropped out during the extreme price pressure back to the category,” Roerink said. “However, prices deflated 14.2% during the second quarter and while volume sales strengthened, that still meant a dollar decline of 10.8% compared to last year’s numbers.”

She also noted that retailers actively want to engage with bacon promotional activity. More than 45% of bacon dollars were promoted thus far in 2023 compared to 34% in promoted dollars the year before.

Other data from Circana and Roerink showed that retailers carry about 37 bacon items during a typical week, up from 2022 levels.

Regarding trends and consumer preferences, bacon remains in the discussion even as new diets move into the food scene.

“Over the past year, we’ve seen a move away from the very restrictive diets in favor of balance and moderation,” Roerink stated. “That said, we still see a focus on protein and ongoing carb avoidance, just in a less restrictive approach. Several bacon brands have addressed these dietary trends by developing keto or paleo-friendly bacon options, complete with the dietary ‘approved’ seals, while others simply call out the protein and/or carb content. I also believe that bacon has a chance to lean into the emotional ties of bacons to the big family breakfast, a mouthwatering smell and a slice of sheer happiness.”

Changes in bacon packaging remained important for the industry. In the last few years, Roerink continued to observe the variety of bacon available for consumers.

“Bacon is making it into the full-service case more often as the craft bacon scene exploded,” Roerink said. “This includes those intriguing new flavors, as well as extra thick, or bacon that is already smoked/cooked and ready for snacking/eating. As retailers are looking to limit shrink and limit the number of cuts on display in the service case, having bacon is indeed a great option that has the desired high household penetration, and can be a great upsell with a filet mignon, to make anything “bacon-wrapped.”

She said there’s also been a combination of bacon with other cuts of meat and mixing it with vegetable options like peppers and mushrooms.

Different flavor profiles have popped up throughout the industry as producers innovate ways to enhance their products. Roerink said she recently tasted ranch-flavored bacon, double smoked, jalapeno spicy options, extra thick and many more.

“Restaurants are extremely good at leveraging limited-time offers as a way to drive interest, and bacon is a category that can do the same,” Roerink said. “That unique flavor that stops people in their tracks is just what we’re looking for to have an opportunity to have a conversation and make the sale. Realistically the sale is often the more common flavors, but limited-time offers can help draw visibility to the category.”