Imitation bacon bits are made of textured vegetable protein, abbreviated to TVP, which is made of soy. They are flavored and colored, and usually have had liquid smoke added to enhance the taste. Some imitation bacon bits are made of a mix between TVP and processed meat; these are labeled as "real bacon bits."
Imitation bacon bits are low in fat and cholesterol, with a strong, often overpowering, flavor. The coloring tends to run and leach into other foods. They are low-cost with a long shelf life, and they do not need to be refrigerated. Some brands certify their products as kosher or vegetarian, making them a staple meat substitute of vegetarian or vegan diets.
Bacon bits were originally made of cooked, crumbled, dried bacon treated with preservatives. To disassociate themselves with imitation bacon bits, brands that carry true bacon bits label them as "bacon topping." These tend to be higher in price, and they must be refrigerated. It is possible to make bacon bits at home in a microwave by cooking and then crumbling the meat into small pieces. While these have a short shelf life, they can be preserved by freezing.
Imitation bacon bits are sometimes classified as "veggie mince," a colloquial term used to refer to vegetable-based meat substitutes.