Sorry, but thermoset plastics are not considered sexy. Or even very exciting.
But one particular product, which can now accurately be described as the nation's most popular meat bowl forming product, is putting some sizzle in the resin. Literally.
Yes, the Perfect Bacon Bowl is heating up a category that's typically relegated to a utilitarian existence.
Both a stalwart and a bulwark, thermoset plastics provide the kind of heavy-duty reliability needed in under-the-hood car parts and electrical products, for example.
Tough as nails. Dependable. Overlooked.
But thanks to the folks at Citadel Plastics Inc. and its MicroPure composite, more than 2 million Perfect Bacon Bowls have found their way into kitchens since late last year.
And that's been good for business for Citadel, based in West Chicago, Ill., said Len Nunnery, executive vice president of global key accounts.
It's been a phenomenon that even he didn't see coming.
“The actual Bacon Bowl is approximately 85 grams per unit and they sell them in sets of two,” Nunnery said. “Backing out the mathematics, they've generated orders for nearly a million pounds of MicroPure. Their production started in late November, so the consumption rates have been very impressive. And the demand for this item has not waned.”
Citadel has been so busy making MicroPure for the bacon bowls that it has three compounding facilities in North America and one in China cranking out the material.
United States Dinnerware Inc. of Port Gibson, Miss., has made more than 1 million Perfect Bacon Bowls for Allstar Products Group, the folks responsible for that now-famous television commercial.
“I thought the product was kind of silly. But I do see how it could be the next half joke/half real product,” said Steve Gluck, president and owner of United States Dinnerware. “I saw that it would have appeal. Bacon is really hot.”
United States Dinnerware added equipment and manpower to produce all of those bacon bowls in relatively short order, putting off some other customers to meet the demand from Allstar Products, Gluck said.
Along with United States Dinnerware, Allstar Products also uses manufacturers in China to keep up with the demand. The bowls are both injection molded and compression molded.
The bowl certainly has received its share of publicity on television on late night talk shows, including a couple of different mentions by Arsenio Hall, who said he received bacon bowls for Christmas.
“The person who gave me that don't like me,” Hall said one night. On a later show, he said he went back and tried the product out and it wasn't bad.
Teresa Sinapi, senior marketing manager for Allstar Products, said her company embraces all publicity.
“The Perfect Bacon Bowl is definitely a quirky product and there's no doubt about that. What we really love is turning people's opinion in favor of the product,” she said in an email interview.
Allstar Products engaged Hall on Twitter after his initial comments and ended up giving away bacon bowls to audience members during that later show when he came around.
“Bacon has been a buzz word in the food world for some time, and that doesn't seem to be going away,” Sinapi said. “We're excited that so many people have latched on to the product.”
Gluck figured the bacon bowl was one of those products that half the country would love and half the country, well, wouldn't. But, in his view, that still meant there was a business opportunity.
“People love to talk about bacon,” he said.
And eat it.
“Based on the bacon festivals around the country and numerous iterations of bacon-infused food products to hit the market in recent years, we knew this product would be a hit,” Sinapi said.
Use of MicroPure allows the Perfect Bacon Bowl to be used in microwaves, conventional ovens and even toaster ovens as the material is approved by both the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Union for food contact.
MicroPure is safe up to 400° F and will not melt, leach chemicals or throw off gases, when exposed to heat or microwaves.
This versatility, compared to other resins, has Citadel Plastics excited not only about the Perfect Bacon Bowl but also other future food-related applications.
“Needless to say, we've been extraordinarily pleasantly surprised by the popularly it and demand for this device. It brought some chuckles on the front end from our engineering group because many of the applications we work on are highly technical, take years to get specified,” Nunnery said.
“This one came on so quickly that we were all kind of blown away initially and, like I said, the uptake was so extraordinary in the beginning. We literally had to conscript three North American plants to get them scaled up and fill the pipeline,” he said.
Citadel is producing MicroPure in West Chicago, Ill., Perrysburg, Ohio, and Juarez, Mexico, in North America as well as Dongguan, China.
A very enthusiastic woman on the Perfect Bacon Bowl commercial suggests different ways to fill a bacon bowl once it's been formed and cooked. “Perfect Bacon Bowl makes bacon the star of every dish,” the commercial proclaims.
But unlike in the commercial, where people crunch down on bacon bowls filled with macaroni and cheese and cheeseburgers, Nunnery admits that he's only had a bacon bowl in its most pure form.
“I think I'm exceptionally boring,” he said. “I was just eating the bowl neat. I was not brave enough to go deep. These guys around here were pouring macaroni and cheese in it and really dressing themselves up for a coronary,” Nunnery joked.
Not all press has been positive for the Perfect Bacon Bowl, but Nunnery doesn't see it that way.
“We tested the heck out of them over here, absolutely. It's really a very unique device,” he said. “I believe it was Huffington Post came out and beat up just ridiculously on this thing. I think they labeled it the worst kitchen appliance ever. I could not argue with them more.
“The fact that you take this thing from the oven into the microware and that the bacon actually forms a shape and you can pop it right off the device and go at it again if you are going for a deep dive on bacon is outstanding. We've actually distributed them to employ