Oprah Grabs Some Bacon Salt; Seattle Startup Is Freaking Out

4/24/09Follow @gthuang

[Updated April 25 with this behind-the-scenes video clip of the Oprah interview]

I just got off the phone with Justin Esch of South Seattle-based Bacon Salt. He and fellow founder Dave Lefkow went on The Oprah Winfrey Show this morning, and were in their office watching the 7-8 minute segment, which just aired on the East Coast. (It airs today at 4 pm in all U.S. time zones.)

“It’s crazy how much interest there’s been,” Esch says. “It’s been phenomenal.”

Bacon Salt makes zero-calorie vegetarian seasonings, condiments, spreads, and even a lip balm that make everything taste like bacon. (And coming soon…Baconlube.) Last fall, we reported on the company’s use of social media like Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter to promote their brand and product. But after trying it myself (and putting it on my sandwich for the past five months), I have to say the main reason it’s successful is really simple—it just tastes really good.

The interview with Oprah, done via Skype, was “totally softball,” Esch says. The show had four panelists taste Baconnaise, the company’s mayo-like spread. Esch says the highlight of the segment was when Oprah proclaimed, “It tastes like bacon,” and she said she liked it.

Like most overnight successes, this story actually goes back a ways. Back in late November, Bacon Salt first got in touch with the Oprah show. “We’ve mailed product to them four times now,” Esch says. But it took a sequence of escalating media attention to seal the deal, beginning with a segment on The Daily Show on February 25, in which host Jon Stewart made fun of Bacon Salt (specifically Baconnaise). CNN took that clip and carried it worldwide.

From there, the local and national media piled on. ABC sent reporter Neal Karlinsky to do a story. While he was there, an Oprah representative called Bacon Salt, saying they’d seen a story about Bacon Salt in The Seattle Times by Mark Rahner. Esch casually mentioned that ABC World News was there filming a segment, and it turned out the Oprah rep knew Karlinsky. Fast forward to earlier this week, when The Daily Show used Baconnaise as a prop, Stewart calling it “capitalism’s greatest triumph.”

Also this week, Oprah’s show asked Esch and Lefkow to mail them 500 pounds of Baconnaise overnight. Then they sent Bacon Salt a Skype kit, and told the founders to stand by this morning. “We didn’t know if we’d be on until 60 seconds before we were on,” Esch says. (Oprah wouldn’t let anyone from Bacon Salt go on the air wearing one of their trademark foam bacon suits. “They made it really professional,” Esch says.)

Now the Bacon Salt guys are gearing up to handle the inevitable spike in demand. “We’re just kind of freaking out right now,” says Esch. “It’s like someone saying there may or may not be a hurricane coming.”

“I’ve had too much caffeine today,” he adds.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

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