Why Does Everything Taste Like Bacon? Top 5 Over-used Food Flavors and Other Annoying Food Trends

John Cohen | January 22, 2015

Does everything really taste better with bacon?

Are you that person who can’t get enough of the stuff? Maybe you’re likely to experiment at Thanksgiving by making sure EVERY dish you make, from the turkey to the stuffing to the mashed potatoes, has bacon in it, as my sister did one year.

Or are you one of those people who have become jaded by the fact that chefs and marketing professionals everywhere seem to think they can sell more of something to us simply by adding bacon to it?

Pumpkin is another great example. I love pumpkin season. I look forward to pumpkin bread, pumpkin oatmeal cookies, and pumpkin curries! But even I have begun to question—does everything need to taste like pumpkin?

Just because we can—does it mean we should?

I offer for your consideration the top 5 over-used food flavors and other catering industry trends. How many of these have you experimented with in your own kitchen? And how do people react to these ingredients at your events?

Bacon
There are two major problems with bacon-flavored everything. (We’re going to take the reason of “it can get tiresome” as a given with any of these flavors.) The first is that BACON ISN’T HEALTHY. It’s fatty and salty. Don’t Americans have a hard enough time with eating healthy? We have too much unhealthy food temptation around us all the time—and we give in too often. Do we really need to add bacon to everything on top of that?

Bacon Pumpkin Pie, from BaconToday.com

Bacon Pumpkin Pie, from BaconToday.com

The second problem is that it’s an exclusionary ingredient. It may seem like a lot of people want to jump on the bacon bandwagon. However, by adding it to a recipe, you’re automatically excluding vegans, vegetarians, Jews, Muslims, and people with health problems, such as high blood pressure and heart disease, from eating it.

That’s why I say—enjoy it in moderation. Offer a few fun or inventive bacon items at each event, if you must. But don’t go overboard. (And by the way, as a disclaimer, even my sister had to admit that her Thanksgiving bacon experiment, which included a bacon-wrapped turkey, was a bit much for one meal.)

Pumpkin
I’m really biased about pumpkin, I have to admit. It would take a LOT of pumpkin before I would cry, “Too much!” However, this past fall, what bothered me is that it seemed like marketers were adding pumpkin to things just to get people to buy their stuff. Pumpkin lattes, pumpkin pasta, chocolate pumpkin truffles—even pumpkin Oreos (which, admittedly, were pretty good). Even if my palate doesn’t easily tire of pumpkin, my other senses did. Adding pumpkin to something doesn’t make it new, isn’t all that innovative, and doesn’t automatically mean that consumers will buy more of it. It was the seasonal manipulation that ruined it for me.

For fall and holiday gatherings, perhaps having one centerpiece dish that features pumpkin is enough. That way, that dish can really shine!

Wasabi
Somewhere along the way, wasabi became synonymous with exotic, adventurous food. “Look how crazy I am! I took ordinary peanuts and put WASABI on them!” “Whoa, dude!”

Wasabi is a fantastic addition to a lot of dishes. However, the snack aisle is now inundated with wasabi-flavored everything, from peanuts to potato chips! The novelty is gone. Wasabi has been relegated to that growing category of things hipsters are referring to when they say, “I liked it before it was popular.”

(Side note: Check out that fabulous “Simpsons” episode from February 2002 that featured Wolfgang Puck selling wasabi-infused rice crispy treats with a Portobello glaze at a private school bake sale. I reference it because it’s funny, and it proves my point that the wasabi trend is played out, if the Simpsons were making fun of it back in 2002.)

Kale
OK, I know kale isn’t a flavor necessarily. But as an ingredient, more manufacturers seem to be adding it to their food to make it seem healthier. I saw a package of veggie chips masquerading as regular potato chips with a little starburst in the corner: “Now with 2g of kale in every serving”.

What’s next? Kale-flavored jelly beans? Adding kale isn’t the magic ingredient that turns an average processed snack into health food. That’s just not how it works.

Gluten-free
Gluten-free isn’t a flavor or an ingredient—it’s just a category of food that doesn’t contain any wheat or wheat byproducts. But it’s amazing how many people are now going out of their way to advertise their products as “gluten free”—even if they’ve been gluten free the whole time!

Granted, buying things that are legitimately gluten free can be tricky. Sometimes, there are gluten products in the seasonings of things like potato chips, where you wouldn’t think to look for gluten. But still, I laughed out loud the first time I picked up a package of jelly beans that read, “We’ve always been gluten free!”

BONUS: Potato chips and chip-like snacks
I was going to stop at 5—but then I thought about the trend with snack foods. Particularly potato chips. Who decided that potato chips should be a blank canvas for all other flavors? That we can just willy nilly flavor poor potato chips with any crazy food combination that pops into our hungry minds?

And who on earth thought flavoring potato chips like coffee was a good idea?

There are now chips that taste like pizza, cheeseburgers, and even Mountain Dew! And please note, as if to prove the entire point of this blog, when Lay’s had a contest to find a new potato chip flavor, bacon and wasabi were included in the line-up. In fact, the wasabi chip won.

The flip side of this trend is that everyone is trying to make healthier versions of potato chips. Potato chips are both the devil and the gold standard of snacking. We love them—but we hate them—but they taste so good—but we hate ourselves in the morning for eating them.

So everyone tries to make the next chip that will replace the potato chip. They try to make them healthy by making them out of kale and beans to lessen the carbs and increase the protein.

But can anything really replace the potato chip?

So, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be in the snack aisle, searching for some pumpkin-flavored, kale juice-infused, gluten-free bacon chips—in wasabi and original varieties. They’re the latest thing, I hear.

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