Adding flavor to bacon enhances quality and consistency.

CHICAGO — Everything is better with bacon. And flavored bacon, well, it just takes everything up a notch to premium status. By itself, flavored bacon is the deluxe version of its previous taste, providing more smack for the same amount of calories. It’s one of life’s little pleasures and a growing segment of the $4.4 billion retail bacon sector. Flavored bacon is catching on in food service, too. It’s a way to differentiate and add value.

The Oink Café, with multiple locations in Arizona, specializes in flights of bacon in varieties such as apple cider, applewood, hickory, honey, jalapeño, pepper and sugar cured. The culinary professionals at ZED451 in Chicago often experiment with adding different flavors and toppings to bacon dishes. For example, the restaurant served grilled maple Cajun-flavored bacon topped with gorgonzola dolce sauce and apple slaw at Bacon Fest 2017.

The Oink Café specializes in flights of bacon in eight different varieties.

Arby’s – with the tagline, “We Have The Meats” – gets bacon. The chain sold about 55 million items with bacon in 2016, including limited-time offers and menu classics. The culinary professionals at Arby’s are continuously reinventing bacon. For example, as a limited-time offer this past summer, the chain sliced bacon thicker and sprinkled on brown sugar, making it the star ingredient in the Triple Thick Brown Sugar Bacon Sandwich lineup of a BLT, club, roast beef and turkey, all on a brioche bun. For the fall, that same bacon flavor, just sliced a little thinner, is topping the limited-time bourbon barbecue sandwich lineup.

The chain also offers a thick-cut pepper bacon. Currently it’s a mainstay add-on for many of its sandwiches.

“We are really proud of our pepper bacon,” said Neville Craw, executive chef at Arby’s. “It’s a big piece of pork belly that we season all on the outside with black pepper. It goes in the smoker. It smokes. Then we make big cuts and put it in a bunch of our sandwiches.”