Cure & Simple bacon: taste test

This last week I followed a Facebook ad to the Cure and Simple (henceforth C&S) online bacon subscription service.  What follows is my assessment of the product and the service.  Having been in receipt of their initial batch of bacon, I thought some feedback and constructive criticism would be welcome, particularly from a food blogger like myself.

C&S  describe themselves as the “UK’s Premium Bacon Delivery Service” – though there are plenty of butchers who supply bacon online but as part of a much wider product range, so I assume you are the only one selling only bacon.  I get the impression they are a relatively young organisation that has begun marketing through social media and is expecting a rush to follow your initial offer.

Their site implies they have been in pig farming and possibly bacon production for some time, probably selling through other distributors – in which it is the marketing and mail order aspect that is new, including the subscription producess.  They’ve clearly put some time and effort into designing the fulfilment process and website to make it user-friendly, in the style of other web-fulfilment companies.  The inclusion of blogs probably helps too, describing the pig-rearing and bacon production process, with the key words “dry-cured” “air dried” etc.)

Who is the core market?  Clearly they want to appeal to foodies such as myself, someone who appreciates quality and cares about provenance – and hopefully to extend that market to people who are usually less inclined to buy quality products.

Naturally, I was very keen to see how those product stacks up against a number of competitors, local and national.  I usually buy bacon from Millins the Butcher in Tiptree (a 2-minute drive for me), who do their own dry cure and treacle cure bacon;  Millins  are dedicated to top quality, and are therefore a great benchmark.

Since C&S sent me a pack of unsmoked back bacon, I bought some dry cure unsmoked back from Millins, and for comparison I also bought a pack of Tesco finest unsmoked back bacon.  Sadly, I did not have any of my own home-cured bacon to hand, since that would have been the real test!

For these purposes I put together a small testing team of me and two bacon-loving friends.  It wasn’t exactly a blind test since I knew which sample was which, though my friends did not.  We considered all aspects of the products, culminating in a taste test.

Size of packs:  C&S says “each lovingly made packet of our bacon contains an average of 8-10 slices which are a minimum of 2mm thick, approximately 230-260g.”  I think “lovingly” is marketing tripe but the pack sizes seem appropriate.  Tesco rashers were notably bigger and marginally the thicker, with pack weight at 240g for 6 rashers.  Millins were roughly the same thickness as C&S but slightly bigger overall dimensions.

Product mix: The fact that C&S have 9 different varieties is as much, maybe more choice than most people would need, and the opportunity to choose mixed orders with a different pack each month is welcome.  However, this subscription model is very inflexible if, for example, you want to order 2 of one pack and one of another because people are coming to stay, or none the following month because you’re on holiday.  No such problems with Tesco or Millins, though neither have quite so many options as C&S.  Buying from a butcher has the additional benefit that you can get the bacon cut to your specifications, rather than in a standardised pack.

Value for money:  £2.50 is fair value for money for a pack but this is only the first delivery offer price for C&S. Tesco charge £2.50 a pack, where Millins offer comes at £10.95 per kilo, £2.75 for the equivalent of C&S pack size.  The consensus view among my small jury was that £6.40, C&S full price – even allowing for the P&P – is very steep, which would be accounted for on small volumes.  However, since the costs are likely going to be much the same as Millins, even less if C&S raise pigs on their own farm, the view of the panel is that C&S operate to a higher profit margin.

Raw product:  Compared to the Tesco product, both Millins and C&S included a generous seam of fat in the rashers, which to me is a very welcome inclusion: the flavour is in the fat.  Tesco product is not British and not hand-made locally, which both Millins and C&S are.

Cooked product:  All three products were cooked for an identical time in the hot oven of my Aga.  Two, the Millins and C&S, til the fat was just turning crispy.  Both were moist and succulent.  The Tesco product, having less fat, appeared more dry and hard at this timing.  All three smelled attractive to my team, though it was repeatedly said that smoked would have been the better option.

Flavour:  The overall feeling was that two of the samples were well-balanced between sweet and salty.  The C&S and Millins samples both crisped well, were succulent and had a good “mouth feel” – though all testers wished the samples were smoked rather than green.  Therefore, in my semi-blind tasting there were two votes for Millins, one for C&S, and none for Tesco, which came bottom of all the lists.

Result: Taking into account all factors, the product available at Millins was very close to that of Cure & Simple in terms of quality and flavour, but the price of Cure & Simple compared to Millins makes my local butcher the outright winner.

I sent this review to the company, and received this kind and constructive response:
Hi Andy,
Thank you so much for taking the time to put your fantastic review together.
You have managed to sum us up rather well.
We are indeed a rather young organisation, 3.5 years old currently.
The concept for Cure and Simple originated form our local ‘pig club’.
A few friends in the local village would grow a few Old Spots each year with a plan to fill most of the freezers in the village.
We started playing around with making our own bacon and, after a lot of testing and collaboration with our local Environmental Health, realised we could actually send it nationwide and allow everybody the chance to buy proper British bacon……Cure and Simple was born.
We initially believed that young professionals of London would be our core market but quickly realised that most of our bacon was going north.
The generations that would buy their bacon in lumps form the local grocers seem to be missing proper bacon.
We had found our target market.
So the combination of Modern production facilities, marketing and the subscription basis of the model along with the Traditional curing and drying techniques seems to work very well for us.
Pricing has always been a big issue for us, it is our dream to be able to get the price of each packet, along with the delivery, down. With scale we should be able to get to this eventually.
We try to keep things as flexible as possible, we will always have a ‘no commitment’ model, nobody should every be tied into something the no longer wish to receive.
Once an account has been set up with us, you can login to the account and add extra one off packets at anytime.
Like you have described ‘family over for the weekend’ login, add a few extra packets of any flavour and these will be with you the next day.
You can also change flavours, delivery dates and anything else, at anytime.
Our plan is to give everybody the opportunity to try good old fashioned bacon, we are not all lucky enough to have a fantastic producer just a 2min drive away!!
Anyway, we hope you enjoyed the extra couple of packets we sent to you last week and a massive thank you once again from the whole team for your beautifully written and enjoyable review.
Please let me know if we can help with anything else.
All the best.
Craig Watson
01763 289179

Blogs, reviews, novels & stories