Condiments Gain Increasing Attention from Food Processors

It's time for manufacturers to loudly tout mustard's fat-free, cholesterol-free attributes.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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Condiments have been getting increased attention from food processors over the past two years. Condiments are savory, piquant, spicy or salty accompaniments to give relish to food and gratify the taste; a pungent and appetizing substance, such as pepper or mustard. The overall category was $4.794 billion for the 52 weeks ending June 13, 2004, up 21.3 percent over the previous year, according to Information Resources Inc.

Product introductions are climbing, too, from 83 in 2002 to 102 in 2003 to 106 last year, according to Mintel International Group, Chicago.

Ketchup and mustard are the most popular condiments, but also the flattest segments in the category. Their sales increased just 0.16 percent in the 52 weeks ending June 13, 2004, but they account for a substantial $740 million.

While ketchup outsells mustard by a wide margin, the mellow yellow (to brown) condiment is used frequently in foodservice since its distinctive flavor compliments hot dogs, curry, honey, fruit, pork, beef, chicken, potatoes and snack foods such as pretzels.

Retail mustard, on the other hand, is a relatively small market at about $300 million. French’s, from U.K.-based Reckitt Benckiser Plc (with U.S. headquarters in Springfield, Mo.), is the No. 1 brand with 32.1 percent market share. French’s celebrated it’s 100th birthday last year. Private label is in the No. 2 position at 18.3 percent, followed by Parsippany, N.J.-based Nabisco’s Grey Poupon at 14.9 percent and Omaha-based ConAgra’s Gulden’s at 6.8 percent. Another player includes Englewood Cliffs, N.J.-based Hellmann’s/Best Foods, which focuses on dipping sauces, an excellent idea since some 40 percent of Americans dip into various flavors at least once a week.

Per capita consumption of mustard is about 12 oz. annually – a little apparently goes a long way. Adding innovation to the category, Reckitt Benckiser devised a flip-tip cap design for bottles of its French’s mustard, solving the problem of product build-up on the cap, which consumers find annoying with some squeezable bottles of mustard. The cap draws the unused mustard back into the bottle for a clean pour the next time around.

Several new mustards debuted last year. Plochman introduced Kosciusko Spicy Brown Beer Mustard, which contains 45 percent lager – a beer lover’s dream. Delicae Gourmet Key Lime Macadamia Mustard, a balance of traditional mustard flavors with the addition of key lime and macadamia nuts, came from Delicae Gourmet, Tarpon Springs, Fla. It takes advantage of the popularity of both lime flavor and nuts, plus it’s a good choice for those on a low-carb diet.

Anna Mae’s Smoky Mustard, from Robert Rothschild Farm, Urbana, Ohio, won an award last year from the National Assn. for Specialty Food Trade. Annie’s Naturals, North Calais, Vt., expanded its line of mustard with one of the hottest trend categories, organic,  with the introduction of Organic Dijon Mustard and Organic Yellow Mustard. And d’Oni Enterprises Specialty Sauces, Sherman Oaks, Calif., boldly introduced Bold as Love Honey Habanero mustard.

Sales also are being buoyed by some health news. Mustard is naturally fat- and cholesterol-free, some studies claim it lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and it’s a pathogen killer.

It’s notable that a gram of mustard flour contains just 4.3 calories, and leaf mustard contains calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B. According to the “Good Cook’s Book of Mustard,” it stimulates appetite and digestion, clears nasal passages much the same as chilis do, is believed to cure colds, increases blood circulation – hence its use as mustard plaster – and mustard flour sprinkled in your socks is said to save your toes from frostbite.

True aficionados can dabble those healthy toes in one or more of 800 varieties of prepared mustards from the Mount Hereby Mustard Museum and Gourmet Foods Emporium, Mount Horeb, Wis., where they take mustard very seriously (www.mustardmuseum.com). Mustard varieties include Sweet Hot, Fruit, Herb & Veggie, Garlic, Horseradish, Hot Pepper, Spirit (with alcohol), American & Deli, Exotic, French and English mustards. You can also take classes at Poupon U, where you can earn your D.D.S. (Doctor of Diddley Squat) degree, or purchase a hot dog and mustard tie for $18.

America’s favorite is yellow mustard. French’s, the most famous yellow mustard, was originated by George J. French from white mustard seeds, turmeric – a powdered root of a tropical plant that gives mustard its bright yellow color -- salt, spices, natural flavoring, vinegar and water. He suspected that Americans were not buying mustard because they did not like its heat, and his success suggests that he was right. First sold in 1904 in the same year that hot dogs were introduced at the St. Louis World’s Fair, hot dogs and mustard became synonymous and are classic American fare.

Retail varieties of French’s mustard today include: Classic Yellow, Honey Dijon, Bold ‘n Spicy Brown, Sweet ’n Zesty, Sweet ’n Tangy Honey, and Creamy Dijon GourMayo, mayonnaise with a mustard twist.

“Growth of private label and fewer glass containers are major trends in mustard,” says Matthew Carroll, market research analyst, Business Trend Analysts Inc., Commack, N.Y., who authored the “2004-05 Market for Salad Dressings, Sauces and Condiments” report. “Flavored and spicier mustards and innovation in packaging – squeezable containers and easy-open tops – will drive the category.”

Speaking of packaging convenience, American Roland Food Corp., New York, introduced Roland Kobe Style Mustard, packaged in a 1.52-oz. tube – just put it in your desk drawer and you’ll be able to squeeze it on your lunch sandwich without a lot of fuss. And Unilever’s Best Foods unit brought out the best with its Squeezable Hellmann’s Dippin’ Sauce Honey Mustard Madness in an upside down container.

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