WILLMAR -- Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Jennie-O Turkey Store is now trying to make breakfast not only healthier, but a little tastier, too.
Over the last several months, the Willmar-based Jennie-O has revamped the look and taste of its turkey bacon and introduced a brand-new product: a rolled turkey breakfast sausage.
According to a survey conducted this summer by Russell Research, most adults say that bacon is their favorite breakfast protein. Among those surveyed, taste was the most important factor in their choice of bacon.
That news doesn't bode well for turkey bacon, which has the reputation of being healthier, yes, but less tasty than regular pork bacon.
"There has long been a public perception that although turkey bacon is healthy, it doesn't always taste that good," said Jen Ehresmann, director of marketing for Jennie-O Turkey Store. "It's unfortunate, because healthy food doesn't matter if people don't eat it."
To turn that negative perception around, last summer Jennie-O began devising a new formula for its turkey bacon that would make it taste better, while still retaining all of its healthy qualities.
The result: a crispier, more textured bacon that sizzles and curls up in the skillet the same way pork bacon would.
In addition to the improved taste, Jennie-O's new turkey bacon has 60 percent less fat and 60 percent less sodium than regular pork bacon, Ehresmann said, based on USDA data. It's also gluten-free and offers 4 grams of protein.
Jennie-O began selling its new turkey bacon in stores in July.
"Ideally, this is for the person who loves bacon but wants to choose the less fat option," Ehresmann said. "We're realists. We believe that people will be willing to make the switch to turkey bacon, but only if it tastes good. Our product fits that bill."
Jennie-O is so confident in its new turkey bacon that it's planning to send coupons for the product to people who have complained over the past couple of years about the old bacon's taste.
"We're reaching out to all the consumers who have told us they didn't really like our bacon," Ehresmann said. "Hopefully we'll win those folks back over."
Along with a new taste, Jennie-O also gave the bacon's packaging a face lift. The new packaging has a resealable zipper to keep the bacon fresher, and the cardboard strip was removed to make it more environmentally friendly.
"That was important to us," said Barry Lynch, senior vice president-retail division. "We wanted to make a more sustainable packaging."
Along with a revamped turkey bacon, Jennie-O also recently introduced its first rolled turkey breakfast sausage, now available in the breakfast section of grocery stores. It's a lean, 90/10 sausage with 50 percent less fat than traditional sausage, said Kim Anderson, product manager-retail, who headed the breakfast sausage research and development.
"It's really the less-fat option," Anderson said. "This was a big opportunity to give people a better-for-you sausage choice."
The sausage has 14 grams of protein per serving size. It's available in two flavors: mild and hot.
When devising new products, including the turkey bacon and rolled turkey breakfast sausage, Jennie-O largely takes consumer trends and opinions into account, Ehresmann said. The company works with a third party to conduct blind taste testings, and it also reaches out to people through its social media accounts.
"What we found through our research is that there's a national trend suggesting people want more protein in their breakfasts," Ehresmann said. "They also want healthier, low sodium options.
"There's a lot of research that suggests you'll have healthier eating patterns if you have a better breakfast," she continued. "We wanted to give people products that were healthy but still tasted good. We believe we've done that."
Follow Ashley White on Twitter @Ashley_WCT