Bacon Trends and Innovations in 2022


From plant-based bacon to sweet and savory bacon applications, we explore the bacon trends shaping menus, meals and products in 2022

NEW! Listen to the article:

KerryDigest Fast Facts:

  • Bacon continues to be a crowd-pleaser, and the global pandemic only helped boost bacon sales.
  • The overarching taste trends of 2022 can be seen in bacon’s trajectory, from the over-the-top indulgence of bacon and fried chicken sandwiches to unconventional surprises in the form of bacon milkshakes.
  • Better-for-you trends like plant-based and clean label are making their way to bacon in both retail and foodservice applications.
  • While traditional bacon still hits home with consumers, people also want premium options with higher quality and better taste.

Get KerryDigest articles delivered to your inbox

KerryDigest Full Scoop:

If there was a Venn diagram showing the intersection of foods that deliver taste, indulgence, comfort and nostalgia, bacon might appear right at the center. Once a breakfast staple, bacon has evolved into a versatile ingredient that is consistently craved by consumers and used across categories by innovative chefs.

Nielsen data shows that the retail bacon market alone is worth over US$6 billion and research from IRI suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic increased sales: for example, during Q2 of 2020, bacon sales were up 33% over the previous year.

Understanding the bacon trends predicted for 2022—including how they mirror the overarching taste trends for the year—can help brands interested in innovating with bacon in both the retail and foodservice space.

To help you get started, we found three types of bacon consumers are craving as well as two trending bacon application categories.

3 Trending types of bacon:

Premium traditional bacon
In traditional bacon products, two premiumization trends have emerged: growing demand for both applewood smoked bacon and thick cut bacon. With the rise of applewood smoked bacon in 2020, manufacturers took the trend to another level in 2021, offering even more premium options of applewood smoked. Thick cut bacon has been on the rise for a few years – growing over 25% on foodservice menus over the last four years, proving the trend is here to stay. Although the appearance of thicker cuts lends to their appeal, the greater size helps deliver better-tasting products: Meatier bacon is better able to retain smoke flavor and causes consumers to associate products with a higher quality and more consistent bacon.

- To innovate with traditional bacon: One thing people love about traditional bacon is its smoky flavor. However, traditional smoking methods can often result in product inconsistencies and a negative impact on the environment. Smoke solutions can be better for people and the planet but can help create a better tasting bacon product with consistent flavor and color. Leveraging authentic smoke flavors will help fulfill the desire for on-trend smoke and grill flavor profiles.

Plant-based bacon
One of the biggest growth areas in bacon is plant-based bacon. Retail brands are entering the plant-based bacon market with products ranging from veggie bacon burgers to tempeh bacon strips. In foodservice, operators are introducing burgers topped with plant-based bacon and veggie bacon breakfast sandwiches.

This plant-based bacon trend is being driven by flexitarian consumers constantly looking to diversify their diet and experience new and novel formats. Consumers selected bacon as the category they were most excited for in plant-based form in 2021 Kerry proprietary research.

colorful bacon dishquote about bacon

- To innovate with plant-based bacon: Like so many plant-based products, plant-based bacon can fail to wow consumers due to off-notes or a grainy texture. Working with food scientists with taste technology experience can help to create the savory and smoky flavors reminiscent of real bacon as well as a meat-like texture.

Clean label bacon
As consumers continue to be more aware of ingredient labeling and what is in the products they consume, many are searching for bacon products they consider to be clean label and more natural. These shoppers are selecting bacon that is minimally-processed and has “free-from” claims regarding ingredients such as MSG, nitrates and antibiotics as well as artificial preservatives, flavors and colors. Natural and organic callouts also resonate with consumers looking for “better-for-you” bacon.

- To innovate with clean label bacon: Meat processors are challenged to meet these consumer preferences while also creating a bacon product that has comparable taste, texture, color and flavor to bacon cured with chemical nitrites. Processors can utilize clean label preservation solutions by working with food technologists and alternative ingredient solutions that provide natural cure, color and texture while simultaneously maintaining a fresh taste over the shelf life of bacon products.

2 Innovative bacon applications:

Sweet and savory bacon pairings
Foodservice chains are taking bacon beyond traditional applications, tempting customers with new techniques and products that focus on combining sweet and savory tastes to develop unique dining experiences. Consumers are getting excited by menu offerings such as bacon waffles, milkshakes garnished with candied bacon and maple-bacon cookies and donuts.

quote about baconbacon cookies

- To innovate with sweet and savory pairings: Building on existing menu items is an easy way to introduce bacon to your sweet menu. For example, brands can use crumbled bacon as a topping or add crispy bacon to an existing dessert, all while maintaining the texture and bacon flavor consumers expect.

Bacon on a sandwich 
The B.L.T. and club sandwich are two places consumers expect to see bacon on a sandwich menu, but why stop there?

As the “chicken wars” continue in North America and worldwide, with multiple brands competing for consumer preference in the quick service restaurant market. Leading foodservice providers are using bacon to drive innovation in their chicken sandwiches offerings.

And, don’t forget the breakfast sandwich: Bacon, egg and cheese sandwiches saw strong growth and innovation in 2021. This trend is fueled by the nearly 25% of Americans eating more breakfast foods now than before COVID-19. (A majority of Americans say they love breakfast food more now than they did a year ago, too.)

- To innovate with bacon sandwiches: Maintaining a savory and crispy bacon profile will help create the best taste experiences for sandwiches topped with bacon. Unexpected flavor combinations, like a sweet and savory pairing on a sandwich, can also be a draw for consumers.

Bring your big bacon ideas to life. Whether you want to create a great bacon breakfast sandwich or need to clean up your current label, we’ll work side by side to solve your bacon challenges. Contact us to learn more about creating craveable bacon products through innovative taste and nutrition solutions.


Back to KerryDigest

Related content:

Get KerryDigest articles delivered to your inbox