Bacon is one of those foods that elicits passionate responses—you are either absolutely obsessed with it or you hate it. That leaves bacon brands with the challenge of taking the love of bacon so many people already feel to the next level.
About a year and a half ago, Hormel Foods was looking for a way to promote its Black Label Bacon line. Bacon lipstick and bacon lip balm? Old hat. Instead, the company worked with BBDO Minneapolis to create a motorcycle that runs on bacon grease—and then send it on road trip from Minneapolis to San Diego, where the International Bacon Film Festival takes place at the end of August. And yes, the motorcycle smells more than a little bacon-y as it drives down the road.
"We wanted to bring awareness and attention to bacon in a way that’s never been done before," says Scott Schraufnagel, an account director at BBDO Minneapolis. "We thought, if we’re going to build a bacon motorcycle, we wanted to make sure we made something functional, not just [a motorcycle] that goes 20 miles an hour."
BBDO and Hormel tapped Charlie Smithson, the owner of CS Engineering, to work on the motorcycle. Smithson, a mechanical engineer by trade, has done a number of custom one-off projects in the past. When he got the call about the bacon-grease motorcycle, he immediately started running through ideas. "It had to have a performance comparable to other motorcycles. A forklift motor might be what we wanted, but it's severely underpowered," he says. Smithson ended up going with a modified diesel motorcycle (the 2011 Track T-800CDI) from the Netherlands.
It's not as simple as dumping bacon grease into the motorcycle's tank, however. Some 275 gallons of bacon grease were converted into 250 gallons of biofuel made up of bacon grease, paraffin hydroxide, and methanol. Fuel costs about $3.50 per gallon, and the bike gets somewhere between 75 and 100 mpg.
When I spoke to Smithson, the motorcycle had just left Brigham City, Utah, and was on its way to Reno, Nevada. Eric Pierson, a bacon and motorcycle lover from Minneapolis, is at the helm. "None of the stops were given to him in advance," says Schraufnagel.
The motorcycle's entire journey is being documented by a film crew from 8th Street Productions; a completed film will be shown at the International Bacon Film Festival.