Yes, Schmacon. Go ahead. Say it a few times and grin. It’s fun.

Schmacon caused quite a stir when it debuted at NRA Show this year. Aside from pulling curious attendees and press from all over the floor to see just what the deal was, this new take on bacon landed Schmaltz Products, LLC. a FABI food and beverage innovation award.

The future seemed bright when we last saw Schmaltz, plus CEO Howard Bender was a hoot, so we caught up with him again to see how Schmacon is getting on in the marketplace.

For anyone still wondering what exactly Schmacon is, I asked Howard Bender to sum it up. “Ya know, you can use the simple cliché: Schmacon is beef’s answer to bacon,” he explained. “It’s a smoked and cured glazed beef slice that crisps, curls and cooks like bacon.”

Why Schmacon?
“It’s lower in fat, calories and sodium than pork bacon—all those simple things,” Bender acknowledges. “But it’s got big big flavor that really only beef can have. You think of pork, and chicken and turkey …really when someone wants a big giant flavor from protein, beef is the answer.”

Schmacon is also interesting because prepping these strips isn’t actually cooking, but what Schmaltz calls “crisp and serve.” And whereas pork takes 12-15 minutes in the oven with associated grease, mess and yield loss, “425 in a convection oven 5-6 minutes and you are done,” spiked Bender.

All this was two and a half years in the making before we met him at the Show.

Prepare to Lunch
“If you’re going to do a launch in our industry, you can spend a year and go out regionally trying to show up at all the right places—or you can go to NRA Show,” Bender explained. “There was stretch of three days where I was interviewed by publications from all over the country, coast to coast with major affiliations.”

Since the Show, Schmacon now goes out from more than a dozen Sysco distribution centers throughout the Midwest and around the country with more in the works. And it’s already on the menu at a number of restaurants, country clubs and hotels.

This is certainly exciting, but it’s when I asked about some of the fun ways operations use Schmacon that Bender really gets excited. He referred me to the official Facebook page, where indeed, many restaurants showcase their experimentations. And Bender loves it.

“I’ve seen it in twice-baked potatoes, cheese fries, all kinds of flat breads, pizzas, SLTs—the Schmacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich,” he lists.

“Wrapping scallops or shrimp. I recently saw some great pictures of a Schmacon-wrapped tenderloin. You’ve got the guys who do a bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin. It’s the whole thing flipped upside down. It’s freakin’ brilliant!”

Bender’s preference? “I’m a purest. Schmacon and eggs.”

What’s Next?
Bender referenced the six-to-nine month timeline for larger chains to add an ingredient to the menu. The good news is that several are testing right now to do just that. “It wouldn’t be fair if I told you names, but I can tell you some have more than 1,000 locations.”

Bender says we should also expect see it in some colleges and educational facilities this school-year, and that he is in discussions with major coast-to-coast retail grocers. “I think that a significant amount of Americans will have the opportunity to buy Schmacon in stores very soon,” he added with the verbal equivalent of a wink.

Why Howard Was Late...
Apparently there will be new developments to experience at NRA Show 2015, with murmurs of a ready-to eat-strip and possible flavor profiles. But the most timely news was yet to come.

When I called for our interview, Bender had to call me right back. I just chalked it up to him being a busy guy, but he explained, “I just heard from our food scientist. We today received USDA label approval on a new product.”

Wait for it…

Schmacon Bits.