Bacon is becoming as American as apple pie, yet plenty of food experts predict the downward slide of bacon as a food ingredient. Still, bacon keeps sizzling away. The donut industry is particularly fond of bacon as a topping nowadays, particularly as maple bacon bars gain huge popularity at retail donut shops across the country. Even maple bacon cupcakes surfaced within the past year.

So as bacon proves its staying power, there is one looming debate among bacon connoisseurs to tackle. When using bacon as a topping for a donut, should you use the whole piece of bacon or chop it first into crumbles before placing on top? (Editor’s note: I prefer crumbles, while our designer, Vanessa, loves the slices).

Bakeries differ in their approach. Mike Nord, owner of Nord’s Bakery in Louisville, KY, says that he believes placing a hefty slice of bacon (or two or three slices!) on top of a maple bacon donut immediately gives the customer the impression of what it is. With crumbles, he says, customers might not immediately recognize it as bacon.

One way around that is to do what Varsity Donuts in Manhattan, KS, does. They pile on the bacon pieces on their popular Bacon Bomb, so there’s no mistaking what’s on top. Besides, when you order a Bacon Bomb, you pretty much know what you are getting.

The bacon craze is undoubtedly spreading. Last fall, Southern California-based Sprinkles Cupcakes introduced their first savory cupcake, the maple bacon cupcake.

Here’s how they describe it: “Harnessing bacon's unique umami taste, Sprinkles serves up our first savory cupcake. Thick, smoky bacon is cooked to a crisp and woven into our Madagascar Bourbon vanilla cake. Topped with rich, buttery maple cream cheese frosting, crispy bacon crumbles and fleur de sel, you will be convinced that everything tastes better with bacon!”

Yes, Americans are trying to get healthier, so the negative publicity about health benefits of bacon may cut into its future within the retail bakery world. Still, people want to indulge when they go to a bakery, and bacon speaks to indulgence about as well as any other savory ingredient.

Plus, adding bacon turns a sweet good into more of a meal. And as more customers are seeking convenience foods that match their on-the-go lifestyles, savory bakery products make a lot of sense.

Here are some fun facts about bacon to chew on when deciding whether to go for the bacon or steer clear. And don’t forget to experiment with slices or crumbles. Ask your customers, through social media or in the store with a new promotion, which they prefer.

Pork market continues to grow

Bakeries and bakery cafes that offer bacon on their sweet-and-savory donuts and pastries are falling right in line with current foodservice trends. With a growth rate outpacing all other proteins in the foodservice industry, pork is hot. According to Technomic Inc.'s 2013 Volumetric Assessment of Pork in Foodservice, pork is sustaining its popularity, having become the foodservice industry's fastest-growing protein in each of the past two years.

The Technomic study also showed that of the 24 pork product categories reviewed, 22 demonstrated positive growth in sales. On a per-pound basis, bacon grew the most between 2011 and 2013, up 102 million pounds.

This most recent study noted that total pork sold through foodservice outlets reached a record-breaking 9.25 billion pounds, reflecting a volume increase of 462 million pounds over 2011 when the survey was last undertaken. The 2.6 percent increase outpaced the total protein growth average of 0.8 percent and the 1.5 percent total growth of the foodservice industry itself.

"We are pleased to see such positive growth in foodservice," says Stephen Gerike, director of foodservice marketing for the Pork Checkoff. "The volumetric study shows that operators are leveraging pork's versatility."

Further, a recent consumer tracking study conducted by the Pork Checkoff shows that multicultural consumers are enjoying fresh pork more frequently than the average consumer within the program's target market.

According to the latest research, Hispanic, Asian American and African American consumers report a significantly higher belief in pork's creativity and inspiration in the kitchen, demonstrating that the pork industry’s campaign resonates with ethnic consumers.

"Pork is a dietary mainstay to multicultural consumers," says José de Jesús, director of multicultural marketing for the Pork Checkoff.  "The results of this latest study provide an excellent opportunity for continued growth within the fresh pork category where we saw a 5.6 percent increase in consumer expenditures last year."

Since 2011, fresh pork has driven growth of the total pork category, increasing by 3.5 percent on an annual basis. Sales of processed pork also grew 2.3 percent, largely driven by sales of ham, breakfast sausage and bacon.

"It's also interesting to note that the popularity of pork spanned all day parts, and was not limited to morning or evening," adds Gerike. "When it comes to the three major day parts (breakfast, lunch and dinner) pork is almost equally represented, but sales grew most aggressively in the areas of breakfast protein and snacks. It's clear that pork is on the foodservice menu across all segments, and full-service and limited-service restaurants represent about two-thirds of all pork volume sold."

Fun facts about bacon

International Bacon Day is Sept. 3.

In the US, we eat 1.7 billion pounds of bacon a year in foodservice establishments.

69 percent of all foodservice operators serve bacon.

Bacon cures hangovers.

There is a bust of actor Kevin Bacon made of bacon.

Bacon and eggs are eaten together 71 percent of the time.

One 250 pound pig yields 23 pounds of bacon.

41 percent of bacon consumption occurs on weekends.

More than half of all US homes keep bacon on hand at all times.