News Column

With bacon and films, Hormel finds match made in hog heaven

October 19, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 19--With a singer twanging "Don't be mistaken, I love me some bacon," Hormel Foods Corp.'s marketers found yet one more thing bacon goes well with: movies.

Seeking to capitalize on America's obsession with bacon, the Austin, Minn.-based company turned to the imaginations of independent filmmakers and asked them to create odes to the timeless product that today is being used to flavor seemingly everything, from martinis to lip balm. It then brought the best to New York this week for an event it called the 2013 International Bacon Film Festival.

"We've had contests with amateur chefs for the last four years to create recipes with bacon. We said, 'What about bacon films?'?" said Terrill Bacon, an aptly named Hormel product manager. "It takes great craftsmanship to make bacon. It takes great craftsmanship to make films."

Hormel received more than 130 entries and the films have drawn about 500,000 views on YouTube. Subjects were funny, inspirational, even romantic.

The winner, named Thursday night and awarded the $11,000 grand prize, was "Portrait of a Bacon Enthusiast," produced by Michael Cameneti, 31, of Canton, Ohio.

His three-minute short centered on a slightly countrified character named Devin whose self-proclaimed mission is "to spread the gospel of bacon." Devin equipped himself with a banjo and, of course, Hormel's Black Label for the job of proclaiming how and when bacon should be consumed: "Greasy, greasy, crunchy, crunchy, breakfast, dinner and for lunchie."

"I really love bacon but I never had Black Label until we did this project," Cameneti said. "Doing a film about something you enjoy is really cool."

The second- and third-place winners were titled "The Bacon and the Sea," a spinoff on the Ernest Hemingway classic, and "We Will Still Be Eating," which asks big questions about the future but only answers one.

The film festival was the brainchild of Hormel's advertising agency, BBDO Proximity of Minneapolis.

The award ceremony was held before 150 people at the Sunshine Cinema in New York and was hosted by Chris Santos of the Food Channel's "Chopped" show and MTV film correspondent Joshua Horowitz.

"This was an easy thing for us to do to give us a leg up on the [supermarket] shelf," said Steve Venenga, Hormel's vice president for meat products marketing.

Indeed, these are competitive days in the world of bacon.

While the size of hog herds has remained largely flat, the wholesale price of pork bellies, the cut of the hog that provides bacon, has tripled since 2000 from 50 cents a pound to $1.50, according to the National Pork Board.

"Bacon brings a unique authentic smoky salty flavor that Americans crave and you can get it even in the smallest bite," said John Green, director of strategic marketing for the Pork Board. "Our parents had three strips of bacon for breakfast, now we have bits in a salad or strips on a cheeseburger. It's also in ice cream, vodka and cookies. It is the zeitgeist of America."

According to Chicago-based market research firm IRI, Hormel bacon, which includes Black Label, ranks third in U.S. market share behind private label brands as a group and Kraft Foods, the maker of Oscar Mayer bacon.

Hormel and BBDO declined to say how much they spent on the film festival other than to note that "it was an efficient way to create as much exposure as it has."

David Phelps -- 612-673-7269

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(c)2013 the Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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