McDonald’s Uses Bacon to Drive Traffic

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National Pork Board Vice President of Domestic Marketing Jarrod Sutton outlines a new promotion in which McDonald’s is giving away bacon. McDonald’s Bacon Hour kicks off the launch of the Big Mac Bacon and the Quarter Pounder Cheese with Bacon and Cheesy Bacon Fries. Find out more about how McDonald’s is promoting America’s Favorite Food.


Don Wick


Jarrod Sutton, Vice President Domestic Marketing, National Pork Board




Don Wick: 00:00 From the Pork Checkoff in Des Moines Iowa, it’s Pork Pod. Pork Pod, a look at the hot topics in today’s pork industry. The Pork Checkoff is working for you through various forms of research, promotion, and consumer information projects. I’m Don Wick speaking on behalf of the Pork Checkoff, and today our guest is Jarrod Sutton, who is the vice president of domestic marketing for the National Pork Board. Bacon certainly has it’s role, especially with quick serve restaurants. Jarrod, you’ve got some new efforts that are underway. Bring us up to speed.

Jarrod Sutton: 00:31 It’s fun! I mean bacon is America’s food, right? People in this country love their bacon and everywhere I go, Don, and the people that I interact with, it’s fun just to talk about the crazy wacky things people do with bacon and the lengths that they’ll go to get their bacon. And so, it’s not slowing down anytime soon! And it’s all about flavor! It’s all about convenience and something that pork producers should feel really good about. People who are working in culinary kitchens all around the country are still trying to figure out new ways to incorporate bacon into their offerings. And we’re excited at the Pork Checkoff to be a part of fueling that innovation. One of the, one of the cool things coming up here for McDonald’s is on January the 29th, they are going to be giving bacon away for one hour.

Jarrod Sutton: 01:17 So they’re calling it McDonald’s Bacon Hour and that’s on January 29th, as I said, it’s from 4:00 to 5:00. And so the idea behind that is trying to drive some traffic. They want to get more people into their stores. And so the concept was let’s give a couple pieces of bacon to anybody and everybody that comes through the store and let’s have some fun thinking about how our customers, and encouraging our customers, to incorporate bacon into whatever products they may purchase. And so as you know, or I’m sure you know, you can get maple bacon flavored ice cream now with actual chunks of bacon in, that you can have bacon in your sundaes. You can have obviously bacon on sandwiches and salads. And so McDonald’s is really encouraging its customer base to have some fun exploring with bacon. And obviously from the McDonald’s point of view, this is going to generate a tremendous amount of coverage and social media, again, because America loves bacon so much and more importantly it’s going to drive a lot of traffic in their stores.

Don Wick: 02:14 This free bacon hour, it really kicks off another bacon promotion that McDonald’s has coming up as well.

Jarrod Sutton: 02:21 Yeah, I mean, the promotion is really to generate lots more interest in some of the sandwiches and some of the product offerings that they have there. So what I love about it is just that it is the staple. It is the hook. It is the opportunity to create some of that excitement and really sort of break through the noise that’s happening in the marketplace. And when you’ve got a product like bacon that has that power, it’s definitely something that America’s pork producers and certainly the Pork Checkoff are proud of. And you know, that’s something that I think a lot of other brands and a lot of other companies really strive for is to find that hook. How do you get people excited, thinking about your product, talking about your product, obviously eating and enjoying your product, but we’ve got a winner in bacon and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down anytime soon, Don.

Don Wick: 03:12 Have we seen some results, when you look at menuing and such, of what the inclusion of bacon has done in recent years?

Jarrod Sutton: 03:21 Yeah. It continues to grow. And you know, I’ve talked about this before. When you look at how bacon has grown in the last, let’s say 20 years, and so go all the way back to 1999 and many pork producers will remember what the price of bellies were at that time, what they were trading at. And certainly, from a Pork Checkoff perspective, we see that as an opportunity. As you look at global trends and global foods, obviously people are looking at flavor and when you talk about the pork belly, which has a nice balance of fat, as well as the whole muscle meat, it just presents flavor and lots of different preparation techniques. And it’s been fun to watch how that has played out on menus across the country. And so if I look at what I would say 2008, you know, really when bacon was just about ubiquity, right?

Jarrod Sutton: 04:12 So it was everywhere. It was on all menus, at 67 percent menu penetration. Now if I’m looking at numbers and not really understanding the business, I’m thinking, well, how come we’re not at 100? Well, think about all the different businesses and restaurants and the size and sheer scope of that industry. Nothing else holds a candle to that type of menu penetration. And yet here we are in 2019 and we’re at 71.4 percent. So we’ve already grown 4 percent in just the short 10, 11 years. And the prediction is through 2020, that model continues to show increased use of bacon all the way up to 72, 73 percent menu penetration. So the reality is bacon is ubiquitous and it doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. And that’s because in large part to the work the Pork Checkoff is doing it, is to maintain that focus, to continue to talk about it, to continue to showcase it, and to continue to celebrate it with consumers as well as our customers.

Don Wick: 05:13 Of course, McDonald’s has always been regarded as the big kahuna when it comes to this restaurant sector. Do you see others that will follow suit or look at that lead, take that lead?

Jarrod Sutton: 05:24 Yeah, great question. And that’s definitely the business that they’re in. It’s a copycat business. And so when there’s a successful plan or program in play, you typically see it work its way through the competitors. And we fully expect that {inaudible} the Pork Checkoff we’re deeply engaged with a number of those food service companies and also retail. And so when, and McDonald’s promotion like this happens, it generates a lot of interest and awareness for bacon in general. So not only does it influence the traffic in McDonald’s stores, it also influences consumer buying decisions at the retail point of purchase as well. And so we continue to see growth not only in food service and on menus, which we fully expect more awareness with a promotion of this size, we also see that growth continuing at retail. Bacon sales in 2018 increased at retail in the grocery sector by 4 percent in pounds. But the dollar sales, Don, were up four and a half percent. That’s huge! Those are big, big numbers! These are, there’s lots of digits in those numbers. And so when you have small percentage growth of big base, it is a big number and these four and four and a half percent growth in 2018, again, just continues to underscore the importance of bacon, pork products and the flavor that it offers.

Don Wick: 06:41 Jarrod Sutton from the National Pork Board. Thanks to you for listening to this edition of Pork Pod. For more information on this topic or the Pork Checkoff itself, visit