Bacon Up: Mixing Food, Family, Flavor, and Fun Make a Winning Recipe

Posted: June 14, 2024
Category: Manufacturer Spotlight

By Wanda Lenoir

Family gatherings are filled with love, laughter, and good food. And it’s not unusual for one of the cooks to switch up a favorite recipe by adding a pinch of this and a dash of that. Sometimes, the results are downright tasty. When the Bissmeyer family got together 30 years ago for a traditional Thanksgiving meal, they turned things up a notch when they deep-fried the turkey in bacon grease instead of peanut oil. As the saying goes, the rest is history.

Bacon Up: Mixing Food, Family, Flavor, and Fun Makes a Winning Recipe

How did you come up with the idea to start Bacon Up?
Like so many entrepreneurial start-ups, the story of Bacon Up begins in small-town America — in our case, Owensboro, Kentucky, with a family of five siblings: Tom, Bernie, David, Monica, and Joe. Our mom, Mollie, was a wonderful Southern cook who always had a can of saved bacon grease near the stove when she was cooking. All five of us kids loved being in the kitchen and cooking with her; we all still cook today. Big family gatherings are our favorite, and although we’re spread across the country, we make it a priority to gather as often as possible.

When our brother, David, attended LSU in the early 80s, turkey frying was just getting started in Louisiana, and he was hooked. This was before you could walk into a hardware store on Main Street and buy a turkey fryer, so Tom and our dad welded together their own custom burner/fryer, and a family tradition was born.

Some 30 years later, we tried bacon grease one Thanksgiving instead of peanut oil, and it was so delicious that it lit an entrepreneurial spark. We began brainstorming right then and there on how we could take ready-to-use bacon grease to market, and Bacon Up was the eventual result.

What is the family’s vision for the business?
People remember their parents and grandparents saving bacon grease, they remember how the extra flavor made all that downhome food more delicious, and they cherish the fun memories of fellowship around the table. We want Bacon Up to embody all of that. Our vision is to make it easy to recreate those fulfilling moments of food, family, flavor, and fun and make it easy to enjoy the connections and memories of a great meal.

What are the significant challenges small businesses face today?
We operate with a VERY small team, so it’s quite a workload! As co-founders, the five siblings have funded and managed the entire venture, even while maintaining our original “day” jobs. We have added a handful of local part-timers to help us out, but there’s no corporate backer or venture capitalist behind the curtain, and only about 10 of us are getting it all done. Fortunately, the team members we have assembled are all immensely talented, experienced, and dedicated professionals who collectively bring so much know-how and expertise to the business- more than 200 years of experience!  So, the key has been finding business partners who share our values and are eager to participate in this unique opportunity to leverage something familiar and treasured and bring it to the market in a fun, up-to-date way.

What does Bacon Up have in common with Independent Retailers?
Since the key is finding business partners with similar values, you can see why we love the Independent Hardware channel so much. It’s such a natural fit to sell in stores where the connection with the customer is genuine, there is a family focus, and there is an entrepreneurial spirit. Additionally, both Bacon Up and Independent Retailers embrace tradition but always look forward and innovate. We change, improve, and bring customers all the latest, but we never let go of the kindness, social connection, or authenticity that built the business.

Has the growth in the grill category have an impact on your business?
Beyond sharing similar core values, the Hardware Channel is vitally important to Bacon Up’s growth because Bacon Up is the perfect “go-with” for griddles, cast-iron cookware, and fryers – all things found in the Outdoor Cooking section of a robust hardware store. Bacon Up was launched in the fourth quarter of 2018, so we only had one full year in the market (and still relatively sparse distribution) when COVID hit. That definitely slowed the rate of sales calls and store expansion, but because eating out was impacted, interest in home cooking really picked up—and Bacon Up benefited a lot from that. And, because socializing outdoors was seen as a safe option for spending time with family and friends, outdoor cooking—especially the griddle—really took off.

Obviously, oil is key to seasoning, prepping, and cooking on a griddle, so as sales of Blackstones and other griddles took off, Bacon Up also saw increased sales. Bacon Up provides much more flavor than other oils, so it quickly became a “fan favorite.”

How does the company market its product to stand out in the cooking oil category?
Traditionally, Cooking Oil is a low-involvement category with little advertising or consumer interaction. However, because we were introducing a whole new bacon grease/animal fats segment, we took a different approach and prioritized connecting with consumers to drive awareness and trial.  We advertise nationally, largely through social media campaigns and print advertising. We have partnered with a range of very popular “TikTok cooks” who feature Bacon Up, among other things, in their cooking videos on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

Importantly for the hardware channel, outdoor cooking/ and or cast-iron cookware is featured in hundreds of videos yearly, accounting for over half of our more than 230,000,000 views. The videos are entertaining and visually demonstrate how Bacon Up can be incorporated into almost any recipe by replacing butter, shortening, or other cooking oils. And the implied endorsement from these popular personalities offers reassurance to anybody thinking about trying Bacon Up.

 What do people most frequently ask about Bacon Up?
If you are wondering right now, “What happens to all the bacon?!?,” you are not alone! That is the question we are asked the most. Our supplier makes bacon bits and pre-cooked Bacon for some of the country’s largest retailers and restaurant chains. They capture the grease that cooks out as they make these products, then triple-filter it to remove the little meat bits and package it in Bacon Up tubs and pails for us to sell. They are also family-owned but a very big company—and they generate more bacon grease than you can imagine. We are never going to run out! So, not only are we providing consumers with an easy way to cook with bacon grease, but we are also reducing food waste by repurposing the grease.

What is the most important thing retailers should know about Bacon Up?
For the independent hardware store, the best thing about Bacon Up is the foot traffic it can generate. Sure, it’s fantastic for sales and profit to sell a Big Green Egg or a Weber grill or griddle, etc., but once a durable is sold, it’s sold. On the other hand, consumables like Bacon Up and the rubs, seasonings, and sauces it is merchandised alongside, get used up and repurchased – bringing customers back in the door regularly. And because Bacon Up is ideal for cast iron, it is used and sought after year-round.


  • Make sure your customers make the connection by cross-merchandising Bacon Up with BOTH your rubs, seasonings, and sauces AND your cast iron displays.
  • Place a tub of Bacon Up on any griddles you have displayed on your sales floor. Keep restocking the griddle-top “display unit” as they are sold!
  • Consider including a tub of Bacon Up FREE with the purchase of any griddle. Get that new griddle owner using Bacon Up from the start and “prime the pump” for years of future sales (and store visits).

The Bissmeyer siblings, clockwise from upper left: Bernie, Joe, Tom, David, and Monica

Prominently displayed in the outdoor cooking section of a popular independent retailer.