When Shannon Duffy launched Tender Belly at the tail end of the Great Recession in 2010 and started selling $7-per-pound bacon to higher-end Colorado restaurants and limited retail outlets, people told him he was crazy. Sure, people might splurge on booze, but they weren’t going to pay those kinds of prices for cuts of pork.
Nine years later, Duffy is plotting an aggressive expansion for his Denver-based company, moving into new geographic territory and planning to roll out at least three new products per year. In May, the company received a “significant investment” from San Francisco-based private-equity firm Encore Consumer Capital, and it’s since expanded its staff and brought on consultants to help develop the “New Tender Belly.”
The new version of the company isn’t changing its core qualities of using only heritage-breed pigs that have been raised crate-free and have no antibiotics in them. But it’s allowing the company to focus more on retail and to be more accessible to grocers, restaurateurs and foodies across a wide swath of territory — a transformation that Duffy, who founded the company with his brother, Erik, believes will allow it to grow more as more people demand better and cleaner cuts of meat than they did even a decade ago.
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