As an owner of The Bacon Jams, Michael Oraschewsky insisted there was nothing significant about his decision to order a vegetarian entree during our recent lunch interview.
Yet on that late June afternoon in Philadelphia's Point Breeze neighborhood, Oraschewsky revealed that his spreadable-bacon company plans to drop the word bacon from its product name.
Also vanishing from the label is the sunglasses-wearin', guitar-strummin', electric-pink pig.
A new subdued look is on the menu for a fourth- quarter debut: TBJ Gourmet, thick black letters say. Discreetly tucked in the white space between the "T" and "B" are the tiny face, front legs, and curly tail of a pig, its snout a soft pink.
"We've grown up a little bit," Oraschewsky - whose title is "executive boar" - said between bites of his gazpacho sandwich.
He promised no recipe change for the company's popular spreadable-bacon line, launched three years ago and now the third-highest searched-for pork product on Google, Oraschewsky said. Total sales are nearing $2 million.
Rebranding will mean new products that aren't so swine-centric.
"While we love spreadable bacon, I know I can get the same reaction from people . . . with other products," said Oraschewsky, 35.
What do he and partner Bruce Kramer, 54, of West Chester, have in mind?
"Imagine Nutella made out of coffee that has caffeine in it," Oraschewsky offered as one example, envisioning it as a toast spread or coffee sweetener.
"We're going to launch products that foodies make that aren't on the market, which is what Bacon Jams was," he said.
This gastronomic sizzle began at an Eagles tailgate party, where Kramer wowed guests with jalapeño peppers stuffed with a concoction of bacon jam and goat cheese. A mutual friend introduced him to Oraschewsky, who started serving it in a restaurant he bought in 2010, Conshohocken Cafe (now for sale).
"I thought it was fantastic," said Oraschewsky, who majored in international studies and German linguistics at Millersville University but "was always passionate about food."
At the time he tasted Kramer's tailgate dish, bacon jam recipes were prevalent, Oraschewsky said.
"Martha Stewart had it at the dawn of the internet," he said. "We can't claim to be the inventors. We're just the ones to put it in a jar."
Specifically, 81/2-ounce jars, each containing a half-pound of bacon among other ingredients and retailing for about $15.
To make enough to go to market, Bacon Jams turned to Kickstarter in summer 2013, raising $12,000 in 30 days.
Oraschewsky would cook and jar the jams after hours at Conshohocken Cafe, and Kramer would ship them from his home. As the orders grew - helped by $80,000 in sales at the 2013 Christmas Village in Philadelphia - cooking had to move to the bigger-batch accommodations of the Center for Culinary Enterprises in West Philadelphia.
Though bacon has been known to tempt the most devout vegetarians, only 50 percent of sales are from people Oraschewsky described as bacon "fanatics." The rest are the result of taste-induced conversions, he said.
His favorite is watching the face of someone who started off being hesitant, and then became amazed.
By 2014, Bacon Jams' founders were marketing their spreads at gift shows. Production was moved to a facility near Harrisburg. That year, sales reached $400,000, helped by two QVC appearances.
Last year, to reach more outlets without having to hire teams of sales associates, the company - with three full-time and three part-time employees - contracted with distributors and started selling wholesale.
Which brings us to this year's rebranding plan. Karin Copeland, executive director of the Arts + Business Council of Greater Philadelphia, praised it as "a maturation in strategic thinking, product development, and marketing."
Key to a successful rollout, she said, is explaining to consumers "this important developmental milestone."
A fan of Bacon Jams, which he carries in his Green Aisle Grocery stores in Philadelphia, Andrew Erace said the rebranding is a good business move from a diversification perspective. However, his hopes for what that leads to won't be music to pigs' ears.
"I would love to see them do bacon-infused products - bacon salt or bacon sugar," Erace said. "There's definitely a lot of opportunities for them to conquer that bacon artisan market."