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BRINGING INNOVATION TO MARKET

Banking on the Bacon

Bacon has proven to be a viable hedge against the recession -- its frenzied popularity has migrated from the Internet into the products of innovative entrepreneurs.
Macaron Parlour is capitalizing on bacon mania with candied bacon macarons.

Back in the heyday of the Atkins diet, who would've guessed that swine would someday, quite literally, bring home the bacon? The Internet has facilitated a congregation of bacon connoisseurs across America, some of whom have allowed their appetite for the cured meat to give rise to their bottom line.

A simple Google search will lead you into a subculture that has spawned everything from vodka, to candles, to crowdfunded ventures. If you're a diehard fan, you may have already written an essay for the Bacon Baby Contest sponsored by Bacon Salt, so that your newborn might be one of the first recipients of Bacon Baby Infant Formula.

Two sets of New York City-based entrepreneurs that began operations in 2010 saw their handcrafted concoctions featuring real bacon pique the curiosity of outdoor market patrons. Macaron Parlour, run by Christina Ha and Simon Tung, began selling their candied bacon macarons with maple cream cheese frosting at the Hester Street Fair in the Lower East Side. Says Tung, that particular macaron is the best seller at the fair, and the best seller overall when combining both fair and online orders. Similarly, Jess Eddy, one half of the duo behind Phinizy & Phebe Ice Cream, says Maple Bacon Pecan was their best seller at fairs this summer, although it has yet to debut in stores with their other offerings.

Although these businesses use bacon as both an alternative ingredient and a talking point, other entrepreneurs saw their existing ventures consumed by their personal passion. Rocco Loosbrock, CEO of Coastal Vinyards, started a small online wine club with his wife as a side business in 2003. For a fresh idea, they began pairing assorted wines with different flavors of bacon. Soon, the Swine and Wine Club was born. The popularity of the bacon pairings prompted Loosbrock to add a bacon club to the mix in late 2007. Bacon sales on the site began booming, soon surpassing their wine sales.

Loosbrock founded Bacon Freak in late 2008, and the site now hosts the Bacon of the Month Clubs, as well as several other bacon-centric products. He now runs the business full-time and hosts a series of other bacon sites including the Bacon Today blog and Bacn.me, a URL shortener that receives a reported 300,000 to 400,000 hits per month. His company also developed bacon jerky and has acquired Bacn.com, a competitor bacon club.

Bloggers often face an uphill battle in the quest to monetize their online publications. Jason Mosley of Mr. Baconpants, a graphic designer by trade, stumbled into a niche market that presented him with an opportunity to accomplish this elusive goal. After starting his personal blog Pagewaiter in 2004, he found that he ended up writing more about bacon than his other interests, so much so that he went in search of a more appropriate domain name. Mr. Baconpants was born in 2005 and pulls in roughly 10,000 unique page views per month. As a result of direct advertising by bacon-centric sponsors and ads placed via the Gourmet Ads network, Mosley brings in approximately $800 to $1,000 monthly. He also sells clothing items on the site. Along with Sean Brett, he began hosting Bacon Live two years ago, a weekly podcast that is "fifty percent about bacon and the other half is about whatever we want to talk about that day."

David Wahl, the director of marketing at novelty item distributor Archie McPhee, states that seven to ten of their top selling items are bacon-themed. According to Wahl, they began selling bacon-themed items in 2005 and have since gone full-speed ahead. "We think bacon is popular because there is something a little unhealthy and naughty about it. It's a rebel food," says Wahl. Tung echoes that theory. "You know how people were going on the health craze for a few years? Low fat, no cholesterol, yada yada yada? This is a rebellion towards that."

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