NEW YORK—The morning after: some wake up to a throbbing headache. Some find their phones full of embarrassing text messages. When Justin Esch woke up and checked his blackberry one night in 2007, he had purchased a company.
So began Bacon Salt, a company specializing in kosher, vegan, bacon-flavored food products. Through a grassroots marketing scheme, the two former frat-dudes who founded the company have seen it grow from a small start-up to a quarter-million dollar earning company.
“Everything should taste like bacon,” said Esch, 31.
And at Bacon Salt, everything does. With approximately 7 brands, the company currently sells 37 products. Highlights include Baconaise, a bacon-flavored mayonnaise, Bacon Pop, a bacon flavored popcorn, and bacon flavored ranch dip. The company also sells novelty items like bacon-flavored envelopes, chapstick and cologne.
Product development at bacon salt is about as traditional as the products themselves– which is to say, not. After Esch and his partner Dave Lefkow, 36 come up with the idea for a new bacon-flavored product, call up their flavor creator, fry up a plate of bacon, and get to work.
“I look like bacon on the inside,” said Esch who after visiting his doctor is now trying to monitor his diet. Though Esch is in his thirties he gives off the air of someone much younger. Crossing his sneaker-clad foot across his knee, he peppered his phrases with 4-letter words and joked about failed business-plans like pornaments—pornographic Christmas tree ornaments.
Their marketing strategy relies heavily on this college humor. Esch describes their target audience as a “stoner” crowd. In fact, Bacon Salt’s big break came when John Stewart began airing their product on his comedy Central Program The Daily Show. Though he originally spoke poorly of their product, after the Bacon Salt boys contacted him, he began featuring their product regularly, even asking a foreign government official to try baconaise in an interview.
But Esch and Lefkow are more savvy than they first appear. Their self-financed company has no ad budget and instead relies almost entirely on grassroots marketing including social networking.
“Tricking the media,” Esch said of his business plan. “Tomfoolery.”
In one instance they faked a press release announcing plans for a bacon-flavored personal lubricant. Though they had no plans in the works, they received production samples from various companies and were featured on various radio shows and in magazines.
These business moves paid off. After initially buying the company for $4,800 dollars, they made $250,000 in sales in 2007. Despite their success, they have no plans to expand into other food markets.
Said Esch, “Bacon is doing really well for me right now.”