Is the Bacon Trend on the Decline?

Bacon slice being cooked in frying pan

Did we, without even realizing it, reach peak bacon and move into a time of bacon decline? Is the bacon trend, once sizzling, now fizzling?

According to the BBC, over the past year, sales of bacon in the U.K. have “plummeted,” as consumers turn away from meat and embrace fish instead. The trend is likely driven by health concerns after the World Health Organization released a report in 2015 linking processed meat to cancer, experts suggest.

Even as the sales of fish, chicken, fruit and vegetables climbed, fresh-meat sales at supermarkets were down by 4.4 percent, or $370 million, the BBC reports, citing Nielsen data. Pork sales saw the steepest decline, with bacon sales sinking more than $150 million in 2016.

Hope for a bacon rebound may be found in the category of higher-quality meats, as consumers swap quantity for quality, the BBC suggests. But some bacon fans in the United States, while expressing alarm at the report, find hope in the fact that the sales data is confined to the U.K.

One commenter on the IT social network Spiceworks, Jeff Mah of Portland,Ore., worried that a decline in bacon sales may signal “the end of the world.”

Bacon’s status with U.S. consumers is less clear: CNBC reported in October that an increasing number of Americans were “passing on old-fashioned bacon [and] red meat to chow down on turkey.” Other data indicates that U.S. bacon consumption, for now at least, may have reached a plateau.

An analysis from the market-research company Mintel, also released in October, offered both good news and bad. Bacon and lunch-meat sales across the U.S. have managed to grow over the past five years and are expected to do so through 2021, Mintel Senior Food & Drink Analyst Billy Roberts said in the report. “However,” Roberts cautioned, “when accounting for inflation, sales are largely stagnant, as health concerns appear to be prompting consumers to avoid much of the category.”

Consumers may be concerned about the sodium content in bacon and lunch meat. But, Roberts said, “An influx of lower-sodium and more-flavorful options across the category should help the category boost sales.”

Ultimately, of course, the fate of bacon, be it staple or trend, salty or not so much, is in consumers’ hands. Matthew Karmilowicz, of West Chester, Pa., posted a rallying cry on Spiceworks, writing, “Let’s get those sales up, people!”

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Photo: iStock

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