Bacon: America's Newest Cultural Icon

By Kelly Peters

The aroma is orgasmic. As the best part of any salad, burger, or 3 a.m. drunken feast, it’s always the clear choice. But unlike its sausage and ham counterparts, bacon has transcended the breakfast meat category. In fact, bacon isn’t just a food anymore— it’s a brand.

From high school hipster wannabes to edgy 20-somethings, our nation’s youth culture swoons over this swiney sensation and rightfully so. Bacon has captured mainstream culture, pushing the mustache aside and claiming its place as the newest “it” symbol. A trip to Urban Outfitters confirms the takeover—bacon popcorn, bacon ties, bacon candy canes, bacon frosting, and bacon toothpaste line the shelves.

And clothing stores aren’t the only ones praising this delightful pork product. Fast food chain Jack in the Box recently released the “Bacon Shake.” That’s right—a bacon-flavored milkshake. And Jack ain’t no fool. Noting the recent bacon buzz, the chain isn’t stopping with the shake but is pushing ahead with an entire “Marry Bacon” ad campaign.

The company is so confident in this matrimony, it even bought a 30-second ad slot during the Superbowl to launch the new line of bacon-infused products.

The commercial features a man marrying a bacon cheeseburger. No, seriously—he tells his parents, picks out a ring, and, well, the phrase “you may now eat the bride” is involved.

Still, health nuts are on bacon’s ass from Babe-esque farms to the Wegmans' freezer section.To their credit, the phrase “heart attack waiting to happen” isn’t exactly a stretch—bacon has 38 calories per teaspoon of grease and averages 104 calories per strip.

But calorie-counters can suck it. Consumers are after bacon as an entity, not just taste bud stimulation. Syracuse University marketing practice professor Scott Lathrop says the public is most attracted to the idea of being able to be a part of the bacon fad, not the tangible product. “It’s almost like guerrilla-marketing. It’s kind of a cultural phenomenon—people want to be part of the in-crowd and they aspire to be part of the cool people.”

So once this trend passes and the shelves of Urban Outfitters become riddled with the next seemingly trivial product, worry not. For unlike the mustache, this powerhouse symbol will have a permanent place of glory—your fridge. Grab the griddle and rejoice.