How Hanley’s Foods’ mushroom experiment turned into a bacon alternative for salads

Burnt mushrooms, it turns out, taste a lot like bacon, Baton Rouge-based salad dressing manufacturer Richard Hanley discovered by accident.

Last year, Hanley and his wife, Kate, had a eureka moment when they accidentally overcooked grilled mushrooms, discovering an unintentionally crisp texture and flavor that mimicked that of bacon. As successful salad dressing manufacturers of Hanley’s Foods, the Hanleys immediately began brainstorming how to scale up the mistake into a salad topper that would fit into their business’ portfolio of seven all-natural salad dressings along with croutons made from po-boy bread.

With plant-based food sales increasing exponentially, the idea felt timely, Hanley says. He and Kate spent the next few months testing ingredients and cooking methods at the LSU AgCenter Food Incubator, where they had also developed their other products and still bottle many of their salad dressings.

In early 2019, they finalized a proprietary recipe for a new product they named Bacom Bits, whose ingredient list includes mushrooms, oil and spices. They were introduced in January and are now in all seven Whole Foods Markets in Louisiana.

“We believe it’s the right product at the right time,” Hanley says. “There’s just nothing else like it in the space.”

The next step is figuring out how to continue growing.

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