Baconnaise joins entertainment, groceries
At the intersection of the grocery business and the world of entertainment was the birthplace of Baconnaise, a product launched with seed money from "America's Funniest Home Videos" and by being the butt of the joke on "The Daily Show with Jon St...
At the intersection of the grocery business and the world of entertainment was the birthplace of Baconnaise, a product launched with seed money from "America's Funniest Home Videos" and by being the butt of the joke on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart."
On his Feb. 25 show, Stewart slapped a jar of Baconnaise on his faux news desk during his commentary about President Barack Obama's speech to a joint session of Congress. Stewart cited Baconnaise as an example of the laziness of the American people and said it was "for people who want heart disease but are too lazy to actually make the bacon."
Then he dipped a pancake-wrapped sausage on a stick into some Baconnaise Lite, gagged when he ate it and described the taste in a way that can't be printed in a family newspaper.
It was the best publicity they've ever gotten, said Justin Esch of J&D's Foods, who with his partner, Dave Lefkow, invented Baconnaise and is now test marketing it in the Upper Midwest, including in the Grand Forks SuperTarget store.
"It was a significant turning point in the course of the business," Esch said. "The key to success apparently is getting Jon Stewart to bad-mouth your product."
Esch is quick to point out, however, that Baconnaise, a bacon-flavored mayonnaise that comes in Regular and Lite, doesn't contain bacon and that it has less fat than regular mayonnaise. It is both kosher and vegetarian, he said.
"If we can prove people in Grand Forks love Baconnaise, we can prove people will love it everywhere," Esch said. "You're on the forefront of bacon-flavored food products. North Dakota is a battleground state."
Esch said he and Lefkow, two young guys "trying to achieve world domination through bacon" and co-workers at a Seattle-based tech company called Jobster.com, were on a speaking tour in Miami when they first discovered their mutual love of the taste of bacon.
"Over drinks I told him the idea I had for bacon salt," Esch said. "Dave almost jumped out of his chair. He said, 'I'm from Chicago. I think everything should taste like bacon.'"
They tried making bacon salt themselves by pouring bacon drippings over salt. That was disgusting, they said, so they decided to turn their idea over to a test kitchen. That's how their first product, Bacon Salt, was born.
The two actually launched their company with a $5,000 win on "America's Funniest Home Videos," where Lefkow submitted a video of himself taking a shot in the face from his 3-year-old son. The two quit their jobs and began selling Bacon Salt in July 2007 through a Web site based out of a garage.
They launched Baconnaise in October 2008.
Today, they said, their products can be found in more than 10,000 stores and at online retailers such as Amazon.com and Costco.com. Now they have a deal with Target to test market Baconnaise in the Upper Midwest, in Grand Forks, Minneapolis, Lincoln, Neb. and Eau Claire, Wis., among other locations.
Then there was the Jon Stewart show. The two said they had been contacted by Sam Means, a senior staff writer on "The Daily Show" who asked them to send some Baconnaise samples.
"We sent a package and included a Happy Hanukah video for Jon Stewart. It was really funny," Esch said. "But it was kind of naughty so it was something we never posted online or anything. Next thing, we got a call that they're going to pub Baconnaise on the show."
About 4 million people see "The Daily Show" live and another 11 million in re-runs. The story of Stewart dissing Baconnaise was picked up by Mark Rahner, a reporter from the Seattle Times, which led to TV spots with ABC's Charles Gibson and Oprah Winfrey, dozens of newspaper and magazine stories and more.
Not bad for two guys with a good sense of humor, a flair for entertaining self promotion and an "Everything should taste like bacon" tagline.
Think they're kidding? One of their products is Bacon Lip Balm, $3.99 a tube. They sold 15,000 tubes through their Web site over the holidays alone.
"Personally, I think it's an aphrodisiac," Lefkow said.
The Web site is www.baconnaise.com/ .
Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .