In Dining Reviews

It's true: everything really does taste better when "baconized."

In Dining Reviews

The original cocktail that inspired BaconSalt.

In Dining Reviews

BaconSalt, seeing action in Iraq.

Tantalizing BaconSalt makes its way to Milwaukee

BaconSalt's slogan is "Everything should taste like bacon."

And, while BaconSalt contains no pork, whatsoever -- it's both Kosher and vegetarian -- it's incredibly addictive.

I speak from personal experience.

"Usually it's like disbelief," says co-founder Justin Esch, on the first reaction from someone who tries the zero-calorie, zero-carb seasoning. "They say, 'You make what? Vegetarian kosher what?' Then it turns into a weird surreal thing, and people are 'baconizing' their ice cream.

"People go way over the top about it and make a mad dash to try everything in their home."

Strange as it sounds, Esch is right. Since the Seattle native sent me a few bottles, I've found myself craving BaconSalt with every dish. I've tried it on mashed potatoes, corn, green beans, macaroni and cheese, sloppy joes, potato salad, tater tots and popcorn.

Maybe the secret ingredient is crack.

But go ahead and prove me wrong -- Esch's creation is now available Milwaukee's Roundy's stores.

According to Esch, the idea for BaconSalt was hatched in October 2006 at a New York Jewish wedding. Esch and his brother (who aren't Jewish, but business partner Dave Lefkow is) got a little tipsy and told anyone who cared, and some who didn't, about their favorite hometown cocktail: bourbon garnished with bacon. They found that the wedding guests viewed bacon as a forbidden fruit, and they guessed that bacon seasoning might be a hit with both carnivores and people who don't dig on the swine.

Esch, 29, shared his idea with his then co-worker, Lefkow, who were watching their jobs with a failing social media Internet company evaporate. When the company went under, they took the plunge and started making BaconSalt.

"At first, we tried to make it ourselves," says Esch. "We fried bacon and poured it over sea salt. It was totally gross."

Fortunately, a college friend of Esch was the son of the CEO of a dried food manufacturer, and was able to produce four flavors of the bacon salt ("maple" didn't work and was quickly shelved). Their venture capital came from an odd place, too: Lefkow won $5,000 from a video he submitted to "America's Funniest Home Videos" of his son hitting him in the face with a bat.

With a little cash, the pair launched their brand about a year ago and put their social networking skills to work, contacting the many bacon enthusiast fan sites, as well as using MySpace, Facebook and Twitter to build buzz.

Hawking BaconSalt via eCommerce at baconsalt.com, they quickly sold out, but refilled supplies by the time they got into stores on the West Coast in November 2007. By January of this year, the product was being sold in 550 stores, and now it's available in 5,000 outlets nationwide.

Esch says getting into Milwaukee was much easier than in many markets, and Roundy's was extremely inviting.

"Roundy's was so amazing," says Esch. They said, 'We believe you, we believe in what you're doing.' They liked that we do charity stuff, and they were willing to work with us."

Charity is a big component for Esch and Lefkow. They donate proceeds of merchandise sold online to a Washington charity called Mercy Corps. They also send their products to troops overseas in countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, where pork isn't allowed.

"I deal in irony," says Esch, who admits that it's a little funny that his product doesn't contain any actual meat.

The company's Web site contains all sorts of high-falutin' recipes, but Esch's favorite applications of BaconSalt are a little more pedestrian.

"My two favorites are everything on a greasy breakfast, and using the peppered flavor in Bloody Marys."

BaconSalt comes in four flavors: original, peppered, hickory and natural (which is vegan and made for Whole Foods, but is not currently available in Milwaukee).

If this all sounds crazy -- it is. But it's also really, really good. Esch says he's sold more than a quarter million units in the first year of operation, with $1 million in sales so far.

And yes, Esch is having fun baconizing everything under the sun.

Says the newly-crowned (non-)bacon magnate, "This is the coolest thing in the whole world."


Talkbacks

mkecupcakequeen | July 28, 2008 at 8:13 a.m. (report)

Ohhh....I can see this on my bacon cupcakes now! WEEEEE!

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johnnymack | July 28, 2008 at 7:52 a.m. (report)

It is nice to see others catching on to this. I've started using Bacon Salt as one of my "secret" ingredients for my dry pork rub. The hickory one is excellent on that. The pepper one is also excellent on baked potatoes. Long live the bacon salt!! There is a 3 pack "sampler" you can get from their website for $12.99. That is where I got started....

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sijan_heights | July 27, 2008 at 10:38 a.m. (report)

Awesome, awesome, awesome! The "tastes like chicken" people must be royally pissed.

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