Creative Condiments Pass the Taste Test
Figuratively and, quite often these days, literally, condiments are hot.
Just listen to Patrick Ford, VP of Raleigh, N.C.-based Ford’s Gourmet Foods, maker of Bone Suckin’ Sauces, as well as seasonings and rubs, many made with organic ingredients. “Hot is always a good thing,” he affirms. “People love to have that burst of heat added with sweet, and it’s a home run.” His company’s latest flavor profiles, such as Honey & Habanero Wing Sauce, would seem to bear out that assessment.
What’s more, condiments are coming from all over the planet, as well as from the fertile imaginations of their creators. As Austin Texas-based Whole Foods Market noted in its recent 2017 trends forecast: “From traditional global recipes to brand-new ingredients, interesting condiments are taking center stage.”
Citing IRI figures, Amanda Perry, brand director at Chicago-based Conagra Brands, observes that “the ethnic food category is growing in the grocery store. Within that, Asian food is the fastest-growing ethnic food in that category. In fact, consumers who purchase Asian sauces/marinades tend to spend twice as much on an average grocery trip as those who don’t.” To capitalize on that growth, Conagra’s P.F. Chang’s Home Menu line is launching five restaurant-style sauces that can be used for sautéing, as dips or as marinades: Kung Pao, Mongolian, Teriyaki, Sesame and Soy. Developed in collaboration with P.F. Chang’s co-founder Philip Chiang, the versatile sauces feature no artificial ingredients.
“The American palate has changed over the years, and American consumers are more open to new and different tastes, spices and flavors,” says Joe Perez, SVP of Jersey City, N.J.-based Goya Foods, whose most recent condiment products are Sherry Vinegar, imported from Spain, and Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. “I foresee even broader world flavors being added to condiments.”
Reinventing the Classics
This influx of novel flavors means that, as Whole Foods’ report put it, “[o]nce rare and unfamiliar sauces and dips are showing up on menus and store shelves.” Perez describes this shift toward innovation from the shopper’s point of view: “Consumers … are either looking for a current condiment that has been enhanced with additional flavors, or something totally new.”
For those home chefs not quite up to speed on piri piri sauce, harissa or some other emerging flavor, however, it will suffice to look at how classic Western condiments and spices are adapting to current trends. Take mustard, ketchup and mayo, for example.
“We’re continuing to deliver bold flavors to meet increasing consumer and retailer needs with Gulden’s Sriracha Mustard and Gulden’s Stone Ground Dijon Mustard, both all-natural and fat-free,” says Conagra Brand Director Patrick Fitzgerald. “Sriracha has been one of the biggest trend success stories on menus in recent years.”
Sriracha’s enduring success is no fluke, he believes. “In addition to all-natural and organic movement in condiments, consumers are demanding more from their condiments,” Fitzgerald asserts. “Consumers are looking for more exciting and bolder condiments. They want to try things that are new and different. We are also seeing spicier flavor innovation used to capture the Millennial consumer that desires more from their condiments.”
At Hillsboro, Ore.-based Beaverton Foods, these trends led to its latest offering, all-natural Beaver Brand Stone Ground Mustard, but as CEO Domonic Biggi points out, other considerations also factored into the product’s development. “We have been focusing on adding consumer-influenced attributes,” he explains. “Gluten-free, kosher, safe manufacturing, as well as offering better nutritional information. We are also looking at sustainable packaging and impact manufacturing.”
Packaging is also on the minds of the folks at Sir Kensington’s, which launched an improved squeeze bottle for its classic and spiced ketchup and yellow mustard at Natural Products Expo West last month. “We are using BPA-free plastic and have inverted the design to improve both the recyclability and usability for our fans of all ages,” explains Gracie Dulik, director of natural and specialty sales for the New York-based company.
More excitingly, Sir Kensington’s has brought genuine innovation to the stalwart mayonnaise segment with plant-based vegan Fabanaise, the world’s first product to use aquafaba, the water left over from cooking chickpeas, as an egg replacement. Originally launched last year in Chipotle and Classic flavors, the product line recently debuted a version made with avocado oil, also at Expo West.
Despite all of the new developments in the category, when it comes to promoting and merchandising classic condiments, certain fundamentals apply, like the perennial popularity of grilling, especially in fine weather.
“Retail marketing programs that we use to support our condiments include programs such as must-buys, summer/grilling seasonal pricing programs and various merchandising activities,” says Fitzgerald. “We also execute cross-promotions with other Conagra brands; for example, ‘Buy Hebrew National, save $1 on Hunt’s Ketchup or Gulden’s Mustard.’”
The reason that these seasonal pricing programs continue to do so well, he explains, is that “condiments are in high demand during the summer months and see large consumption spikes that we are able to capitalize on. Our targeted seasonal merchandising and focused promotional activity starts in March and extends out to Labor Day weekend, with the Fourth of July being the peak of the season. We have found that it is important to engage consumers early in the season, and capturing Memorial Day is key to capitalizing on the summer/grilling season.”
Despite its cutting-edge image, Sir Kensington’s has taken a similar approach, according to Marketing Communications Manager Allison Marchesani, although with something of a twist: “We focus our promotions around major grilling holidays — Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day — while also looking for more creative themes that still feature high condiment use — Easter, Thanksgiving, back to school.” Additional strategies Marchesani mentions are large, enticing off-shelf displays at hot price points; high-visibility shippers featuring best-selling products; and secondary placement opportunities in relevant departments such as meat, seafood or deli.
Goya is also big on cross-merchandising in the perimeter. “We’ve found that usually stand-alone displays placed next to produce sections, as well as meat counters, are effective ways to promote condiments,” notes Perez. “This adds excitement and an added impulse takeaway to what a consumer is already purchasing.”
Worth Its Salt
In the area of spices, what could be more basic than salt? If SaltWorks had its way, though, no one would ever view the item that way again.
“Globally inspired, hot and spicy, and rich smoke flavors continue to captivate consumers,” observes Megan O’Keefe, media relations manager at Woodinville, Wash.-based SaltWorks “These trends are influencing and bolstering the popularity of flavored, smoked and unique varieties of finishing salts as consumers continue to seek out innovative condiments that add creativity, panache and a punch of flavor to snacks and meals.”
In response to this flavor trend, SaltWorks’ Fusion line offers a wide selection of flavorful, colorful sea salts that have been naturally fused with a real food ingredient. The company’s clean-label products additionally meet the rising consumer demand for easily identified, minimally processed items, according to O’Keefe, while “artisanal, handcrafted appearance and packaging made with eye-catching high-quality materials is driving consumers to higher-end and more unique condiments that are worthy of counter or tabletop display.”
To this end, SaltWorks debuted three new “stunning and functional” retail packaging styles for its gourmet Artisan Salt Company brand at the Winter Fancy Food Show this past January, she notes.
“Now available in convenient wholesale case quantities for retailers, the packaging includes a beautiful boutique glass jar with sustainably harvested American black walnut wood lids, refillable salt shakers designed to fit perfectly in existing retail spice rack displays, and reusable, infinitely adjustable ceramic grinders,” adds O’Keefe, adding that the airtight containers were “designed to be refilled, reused and repurposed.”
Continued invention in the condiment category is a certainty, given the human propensity to seek out the new. “Consumers are always in need of constant food excitement,” observes Goya’s Perez, “and condiments help to provide that to any dish.”
More information is available in "Promoting Condiments, In-store and Out."