Without question, we’d all like to think we’re all independent geniuses, following our wits and whims without worry and question. Ask any sales and marketing person, though, and they’ll tell you that their job is to make sure that either doesn’t happen or that they catch on to a trend early enough that they can exploit our basest whims to their fullest commercial potential.
Case in point: bacon. A fascinating 2014 article from Bloomberg Business details the calculated rise of America’s consumption of and love for bacon over the past few years. (Yes, the article is a bit old, but it’s making the rounds today, and it’s absolutely worth a revisit, especially given this week’s hungry holiday.) While the collective minds of the internet might like to think the boom was the result of a few Ron Swanson quotes and the ridiculousness of the Baconator, Bloomberg Business proves differently, noting that bacon’s periodic resurgences have long been the result of well-placed marketing campaigns and consumer capitalization. For instance, when both McDonald’s and Wendy’s got on the bacon train, in part because of some manipulation from the National Pork Board, things changed for the better for the bacon industry. As the article explains,
Quickly, the fortunes of the lowly pork belly improved. “I can tell you that it does not take much of a change to materially affect the cost of the product,” says Steve Nichol, a meat trader with Midwest Premier Foods in Iowa. He notes that the impact of a single fast-food chain adding a slice of bacon to one sandwich on the menu was enough to kick pork belly demand into high gear. “When chains like Burger King and McDonald’s started really adding [bacon] to sandwiches on a regular basis, that’s when the market changed for the product. It went from being a very, very cyclical item to something that was consistent and growing… If you increase demand of the product by just one-tenth of 1 percent, you push the price up much higher.” Pork bellies, long dormant, began moving up in price, from under 30¢ per pound in 1989, to almost a dollar in 2006. Sensing this momentum, the National Pork Board began using the catchphrase, “Bacon Makes It Better.”
The article continues:
Burger King will top your Whopper with as many strips of bacon as you can afford (someone in Japan ordered 1,050) and sell you a bacon ice cream sundae for dessert. Denny’s (DENN) introduced an all-bacon Baconalia menu in 2011, featuring BBQ Bacon Mac ’n Cheese Bites and other dishes that were really just piles of bacon with some other ingredients… By 2008, bacon had completed its journey from an ignored, unwanted meat to a viral meme—the edible equivalent of cat videos. That year, according to the website Babycenter, 11 out of every million babies born in America were named Bacon.
The entire thing is over on Bloomberg Business and is well worth a read, especially if you’re looking for some meaty talking points for the Thanksgiving table.