'Bacontrepreneurs' Building Bacon Empire

Bacon-lovers catapult "uber-meat" into successful $1.4 million business.

April 21, 2009, 1:09 PM

April 21, 2009— -- Justin Esch and Dave Lefkow have re-invented what it means to be entrepreneurs. The self-proclaimed "bacontrepreneurs" have catapulted their love of bacon into a successful business.

"Everything should taste like bacon; that's the motto," Esch told ABC News.

Their business began as a joke over drinks. During a lively discussion with friends about their common passion for bacon, the idea for Bacon Salt, a product mixing their two favorite flavors, was born.

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The duo, who both had successful jobs at a technology company in Seattle, quit and began experimenting with different flavors of Bacon Salt.

"We took a bunch of bacon and poured in salt," Esch, 30, said. "Turns out that's disgusting."

Once the recipe was perfected, Esch and Lefkow, 35, introduced Bacon Salt, and hickory and peppered varieties, to the market last year.

With five employees and no marketing budget, they stormed sporting events coast to coast dressed as bacon and created buzz on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

"When we launched it out of my garage in Issaquah, in suburban Seattle, we had 800 orders in the first week, with no promotion, [from] 12 countries, 25 states," Esch said. "We ran out of Bacon Salt within six days."

Within a year, their products have made it to the shelves of major grocery stores around the country and are sold around the world. And despite the nation's deep recession, the fun-loving startup keeps bringing home the bacon, raking in $1.4 million last year in profits.

Beth's Café, a 24-hour Seattle restaurant known for its greasy cuisine, caught on quickly, adding Bacon Salt into the mix of condiments on their tables.

"We always say everything's better with bacon and that's their motto," said Chris Dalton, owner of Beth's Café. "It's been excellent. You can put it on almost anything. It's good on a turkey sandwich. I like it on tater tots."

The dedication to all things bacon has led to the launch of bacon-flavored sunflower seeds and the sandwich spread, Baconaise, which combines two of life's more fattening flavors, bacon and mayonnaise.

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Surprisingly, bacon is not an ingredient in Bacon Salt or Baconaise. The company says that the salt is low sodium, zero-calorie, zero-fat and vegetarian, bringing bacon's flavor to the masses. Plus, they're certified kosher.

"I had been eating bacon and mayonnaise for six months," Lefkow said. "I would eat a slice of bacon and a spoon of mayonnaise. That was definitely a fattening process. Bacon Salt has less than a quarter of the servings, so you can get bacon flavor in a salt format."

Esch and Lefkow have plans to expand their bacon empire.

"We've got tons of ideas, everything from beer to waffles, hot sauce, ketchup," Lefkow said.

But they're not limited to food. They're experimenting with a bacon-scented body spray, suntan lotion, even soap. The recent hot seller on their Web site is bacon-inspired lip balm.

"We've sold over 10,000 of them," Lefkow said. "People buy it by the dozen. Some people say it's the worst thing they have ever heard of; other people said that's the greatest thing ever."

Operations Manager Shannon Carlston said the rush of orders can make the factory crazy at times.

"I'm shocked and amazed," she said. "The [lip balm], that's just been crazy. They love the feeling of having bacon fat on their lips, I guess."

Lefkow said he has faith in the sustainability of their unlikely recipe for business success -- just add bacon.

"I don't think there is any limit for what bacon can do," Lefkow said. "It's the uber-meat."