JD Enrici, vice president of sales and marketing for Coleman Natural, noted as clean ingredient labeling topics become more prevalent in the news, consumers are becoming more aware and taking note of what is in the products they consume.

“Shoppers are looking for products that have ‘Free From’ claims such as all natural, no antibiotics, no hormones, and no artificial ingredients so they can feel good about what they eat and what they are serving their families,” he said. “Coleman Natural bacon has always held to these high standards. There is also a lot of buzz regarding what the Supreme Court will do regarding Proposition 12 in California. Coleman Natural is proud to be crate free and has product that is compliant and ready for customers in California and Massachusetts.”

Hailey Tranchitella, senior brand analyst for Hormel Foods, noted bacon brands are focusing on providing more sustainable packaging and increasing convenience for the consumers.

“It is in our DNA to continue to lead sustainability efforts and provide the most convenient products to our consumers,” she said. “Safe to say that Hormel Foods has nailed both sustainability and convenience, but why would we alter our beloved bacon to be anything other than a delicious cut of meat.”

One consumer trend that retailers and bacon producers need to be watching in 2023 is using meat as an ingredient within the flexitarian trend.

According to the most recent 2022 Power of Meat report, 16% of U.S. consumers identify as flexitarian, and while they eat meat, they’re trying to replace some of their animal proteins with non-animal proteins. But they love and can’t imagine giving up the flavor of meat.

“Because of bacon’s distinctive flavor profile, it’s a great choice for consumers trying to cut back on their meat consumption as a little bacon goes a long way when it comes to flavor,” said Patrick Fleming, a bacon brand specialist for Midan.

New sizes and flavor

New thicknesses and flavor profiles have been making their way to bacon in recent years. This is in part due to how consumers typically eat bacon. Approximately half of bacon eaters say they mostly eat bacon at breakfast as opposed to incorporating it as an ingredient into other meals. Conversely, 38% say bacon is an easy way to incorporate more protein into their diet, according to Mintel.

“Thicker bacon slices offer a better eating experience on the breakfast plate and are growing in popularity,” Fleming said.

Enrici sees a lot of correlation to what the industry sees trending on foodservice menus.

“The biggest trends we see in bacon are thicker cut bacon and also flavors that go well with bacon such as sweet and savory pairings,” he said. “As we increase our product line, we will look to current trends to help guide our decisions as we round out our portfolio.”

Since the pandemic, consumers have become more experimental and are seeking new flavors of bacon to add to their recipes.

“When you look at the bacon segment, we have woods like cherry, apple and maple in addition to the more traditional hickory,” Fleming said. “With seasonings, we also have many new flavors beyond the traditional pepper bacon. We have also seen a trend of smaller packers doing smaller batches of bacon, similar to other product categories, like small-batch bourbon.”

Tranchitella noted new items enter the bacon segment every month with some newer items to enter the mix playing off the idea of new flavors, different cuts and forms.

“Recently, a well-known non-bacon brand entered the category with their new marinated meat varieties,” she said. “Additionally, there are other companies that are taking bacon outside of the bacon set and incorporating its profile into other items such as hot dogs. It seems like the only thing that could make bacon better is add more bacon.”