BACON lovers will soon have a new beef alternative: Schmacon — the latest project of the checkoff-funded Beef Innovations Group.
Schmaltz Deli Co. in Naperville, Ill., will officially introduce Schmacon at the National Restaurant Assn. convention in Chicago, Ill., in May.
"Schmacon is beef's answer to bacon," said Howard Bender, Hyde Park Culinary Institute of America chef and Chicago deli owner who created the product. "It opens up so many opportunities for those who love traditional bacon but, for one reason or another, limit intake or avoid it altogether."
Schmacon offers a viable substitute for bacon for consumers who have certain health-related dietary needs by offering reduced calories, sodium and fat per serving or for religious or ethnic groups prohibited from eating pork products.
The whole-muscle beef slices, fused with a proprietary spice blend that delivers a smoky, sweet flavor through a patent-pending process, cooks up like bacon in less time.
Illinois Beef Assn. (IBA) director of industry programs Shelia Stannard told Feedstuffs that Schmacon does have a different appearance and texture plus a sweeter flavor than bacon.
"Personally, at first, I was leery, but the more I sampled it, the more I liked it," Stannard said.
Last summer, IBA was offered the opportunity to debut the new beef product in limited quantities for only three days at the Ribeye Corral during the Illinois State Fair.
In the morning before the food vendors opened, IBA offered samples to visitors at the commodity pavilion, and in general, it said the response was positive.
"People came back later in the week and asked for the product," Stannard said.
She said IBA sold 500 units over those three days, and many customers requested Schmacon on their sandwiches, which was exactly the intent when the product was invented.
As a 2014 Food & Beverage Innovation Award recipient, Schmacon was recognized as a product with "bold imagination" and "great potential to help (restaurant) operators capitalize on consumer trends and drive operator success."
"Schmacon enables restaurant patrons to customize their meals in a very easy way," Bender said. "Restaurants can offer a more personalized experience, such as an upgrade to beef or a healthier, great-tasting option that adds flavor and crunch to current food trends."
The checkoff's Beef Innovations Group has been working with Schmaltz for more than a year to make this new product ready for commercialization.
"The beef checkoff immediately recognized the potential in Schmacon to be a successful new beef product in the breakfast daypart," Bender said. "They have aided us throughout our development and launch process, providing credibility and exposure at a critical time. Beef checkoff support is helping tremendously both in the foodservice and retail channels."
The product fits well with the beef checkoff goals by providing a food item that is convenient and nutritious, which are two key demand drivers.
"As a payer of the checkoff, it's been exciting to have been involved in new products for several years," said Jennifer Houston, a Tennessee cattle producer. "Things take a while to come to fruition, and they don't all pan out, but we've had some great wins — like 'the seven-year overnight sensation,' a.k.a., the flat iron — and for me, it's exciting to see something else come to market besides the steaks and roasts we love."
Houston added that "millennials — and, for that matter, all consumers — want choices. They want different taste sensations, spices, ethnic food, dish sizes, and as an industry, we need to stay fresh and innovative."
Schmacon is now available commercially, and participants in the National Restaurant Assn. show May 17-20 will have the opportunity to sample it. It will be available in the retail market by the end of the year.