Bacon giveaway cooked up by K-State athletics fuels nation’s craze

Hannah Hunsinger | Collegian Bacon has risen in popularity in recent years to such an effect that recently K-State Athletics used it as a free give away to lure students to the women’s basketball game on Nov. 11 at Bramlage Coliseum.Photo credit: Hannah Hunsinger.

It has been a feature on Sports Center, CBS Sports and “Sports Illustrated.” It is a flavor of salt, popcorn and lip balm. There is festival centered on it in Chicago that is entering its sixth year. Bacon is probably not the word you would use to tie those statements together, but since the early 2000s, bacon has become a craze that everyone wants to be a part of.

K-State joined the craze when it decided to have a bacon giveaway for the women’s basketball home opener versus Washburn on Nov. 8. The story was tweeted by ESPN’s Sports Center and CBS Sports and even merited a blurb in “Sports Illustrated.” As a publicity plan targeted to get students to attend the game, the popularity grew so much that the original plan to cook 100 pounds had to be increased to 300 pounds.

“As college students, we’re trying to get as many free things as possible, and it just so happened to be a plus, for us, that it was bacon,” Dylan Partridge, senior in secondary education, said.

The idea was certainly a hit, as more than 1,000 students showed up to the game and cheered on the Wildcats to an 85-53 victory.

Bethany Cordell, graduate assistant in K-State’s fan experience and sales office, was one of the staff members who helped come up with the idea.

“We’re ecstatic about how it has been received,” Cordell said in an interview with Yahoo Sports. “We definitely anticipated a strong response from our students because we had done our background research, but the national attention we’re really surprised about and appreciative of. We’re just excited to have everyone talking about K-State.”

Bri Craig, sophomore in child and family studies, said she didn’t know that there was a bacon craze at K-State.

“I wasn’t aware there was a bacon craze,” Craig said. “But whatever works to get people excited about coming to [the] games!”

The idea of the bacon craze began in the 1990s when the National Pork Board created the slogan to make pork the “other white meat.” When that idea wasn’t as successful as they’d hoped, they created the slogan, “the meat equivalent of chocolate,” to target men. This successful marketing campaign caused food products containing bacon to increase in sales by 35 percent.

The craze further increased in 2007 when two men named Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow began J&D;’s Foods. They sold 20,000 jars of bacon salt in their first five months, and therefore decided to take on the challenge of making everything taste like bacon. Their products include salt, lip balm, envelopes, sunscreen, popcorn, croutons, shaving cream and mayonnaise.

Considering the current trend of healthy eating and getting into shape, some may wonder how the bacon craze still exists. Of bacon’s calories, 69 percent come from fat, and more than half of those fat calories are from saturated fat, which greatly increases one’s risk of heart attack and stroke. The American Institute for Cancer Research has even said that bacon is a processed meat, meaning it is never safe to eat and may lead to a higher risk of cancer.

“Most people don’t care about the nutrition facts as long as the taste satisfies them,” Partridge said. “It seems to be that way everywhere in America.”

The popularity has continued despite any negative health effects bacon may have. Burger King offered a sundae with caramel, fudge and bacon for a limited time. Lay’s introduced BLT flavored potato chips as a special edition of their classic potato chips. Udder Delight, located on the boardwalk in Rehoboth Beach, Del., even created a bacon flavored ice cream. And most recently, McDonald’s has added bacon to many of the items on their Dollar Menu & More to entice costumers to purchase foods at the higher price levels.

While the country may be on a bacon craze, there are some that are against the extravagant uses for bacon. Robby Hudson, senior in public relations, said he believes bacon is meant for food purposes only.

“If someone tries to capture the beauty and decadence of bacon in any other form other than food, they should be put on trial for defamation of bacon,” Hudson said.