During the late seventies and eighties, Sizzlean was a popular bacon alternative produced by Swift & Co. The breakfast strips were marketed as a healthier alternative to bacon and boasted less fat and less shrinkage than regular pork bacon.
Sizzlean was supposedly 50% leaner than pork belly bacon, in fact, although it actually contained 37% fat. And let’s be honest, if it didn’t, it wouldn’t have tasted as good.
Most websites on nostalgia or food history tend to paint Sizzlean as one of those “crazy ’80’s’ concoctions that belong in the waste bin of failed ideas. This is due to one basic misconception: The idea products are only taken off the market because they don’t sell. In truth, Sizzlean did not fail, at least not in that way. Did it outsell bacon? No. Was it successful? Yes.
I remember quite liking it as a kid. And, as I peruse the message boards and comments about it from those who remember it, I realize I am not alone. Many others share their disgust at the product.
Shawn, at Branded in the ’80s, shares my fond remembrance. He also has a much better memory of the taste and texture than I do, describing it as having a texture more like jerky (sounds about right, and who doesn’t love jerky) and reminding me of the little bubbles of fat that would form in the strips.
It tasted, as I remember, very much like bacon except with a meatier and chewier texture. I like my bacon more chewy than crispy, but of course, at the time, a still preferred real bacon. Some have claimed that Sizzlean did not fry up as crisp at bacon. I am fairly certain, as are others, that you could achieve a crisp texture although perhaps not a crunchy texture. Crispy bacon, however, is not as popular as “crisp-chewy” bacon.
What was Sizzlean Made Of?
Sizzlean could be compared to today’s turkey bacon in that it was a fabricated breakfast strip product. This means it consisted of meat products there were ground up very fine and then pressed into form. However, it contained not only turkey but leaner cuts of pork shoulder and beef. An “all-beef” version was also introduced, although it still contained added turkey. Consumer sensory evaluations at the time placed Sizzlean second to regular bacon but over turkey bacon in texture, taste, and visual appeal.
Move Over Bacon, Now There’s Something Leaner!
Commercials for the product started with the tagline “Don’t bring the bacon, bring home the Sizzlean. Later came “Move over, bacon, there’s something leaner!” and “Move over, bacon, now there’s something meatier!”
1978 Sizzlean Commercial
1982 Sizzlean Commercial
Why Was It Discontinued?
Although the product and others like it such as Firebrand beef breakfast strips never had a large share of the bacon market, they enjoyed consistent sales for many years. The product was sold through the 1980’s and 1990’s, but by the early 2000’s, it began to disappear from shelves. It was completely discontinued by 2005. Like Jello Pudding Pops, many people remember the product fondly and search for why it is no longer available.
I was not able to find why, specifically, Sizzlean was discontinued. By 1990, Swift had been acquired by ConAgra foods and the company discontinued the product before selling off its meat-oriented brands. This could have been due to declining sales but there could be many other reasons for the product being pulled. As one commenter said, maybe it was just an orphan product. If we take a cue from the pharmaceutical industry, this would mean that it was a decent product that was not commercially viable, making it similar Jello Pudding Pops.
However, I doubt profit margin was the sole problem. More likely they just failed to “find a home” at ConAgra. The company may simply have chosen to discontinue products to focus on others. And, this brings us back to my comment about market share. While Sizzlean may have lost some of its market share through the years, if you want a product to thrive, you have to give it some love in the form of advertising dollars.
Sizzlean may not have failed in terms of no profit or even no sales, but a product can also fail because it never gobbles up an appreciable helping of the market share and, in the meantime, it burns up company resources which could be used for products that would produce more profit in the long run. So, you see, a product does not have to be a total failure to fail. Our favorite fake bacon, no matter how much we miss it, was always a niche product, even in its heyday. It was never going to become bacon’s brother from another mother.
Will Sizzlean Ever Be Back?
Trademark records indicate that the Sizzlean trademark is owned by a company called Quality Brands, LLC., a company which acquires and licenses recognized brand names. This means that the Sizzlean name is still available, but does not make it at all likely that the actual product will ever return. The name could just as well be applied to other types of low-fat meat products. Although something called Sizzlean may come on the market at some point in the future, it almost certainly will not the Sizzlean you remember.