Awesome Sauces: Classic Condiments Face Competition from New Sauce Introductions

Teen slang aptly describes a new wave of condiments — fancy, more flavorful versions of traditional ketchup, mustard and mayo that can be used on sandwiches, salads and so much more.

By Deborah Cassell, Contributing Editor

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Yellow mustard, classic ketchup, basic mayo and even salsa are facing some competition from new sauces, dressings, dips and spreads. Gourmet adaptations of traditional condiments are tantalizing taste buds both at retail and in restaurants, with fast-casual establishments among those expanding their sandwich offerings using fancier flavors.

At the Winter Fancy Food Show in January, the Specialty Food Assn. announced several new flavors in the condiment category. “Dressed up” introductions include Victoria Amory’s Fine Herbs Mayonnaise, a delicate product infused with herbs from the lush Basque region, as well as fresh lemon juice, real eggs and pressed olive oil; Stonewall Kitchen’s Truffle Ketchup, a thick and rich accompaniment to French fries; Amoretti’s Premium Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil infused with Kalamata Olives, for use in dipping, drizzling, brushing and finishing bread, pizza, pasta and salads; Lillie’s Q Barbeque Sauces & Rubs’ Ivory, an Alabama mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar sauce with black pepper notes that is designed for pairing with chicken and fries; and Fischer & Wieser’s Salted Caramel Mustard Sauce, a salty-sweet and tangy finishing sauce for baked ham, pork, turkey or chicken, or sandwiches.

Mustard is making a comeback alongside the resurgence in pork as a leading protein, according to Barbara Zatto, director of culinary and sales manager-west for Mizkan Americas’ Food Ingredients division, Mt. Prospect, Ill. “Among chefs, I am seeing mustards with notes of fruit and or notes of heat, both of which are trending in a global direction."

It seems ordinary mustard may have trouble cutting it in the future. So might salsa and other spicy condiments.

Sriracha-cha

Among the top five trends announced at the Fancy Food Show was sriracha — a fiery Thai chili sauce that inspired Subway to create its popular Sriracha Chicken and Sriracha Steak Melts. According to The Huffington Post, Subway’s newest sauce, is “made from a proprietary blend of chilis, garlic, spices and mayonnaise” and is “surprisingly spicy for a mass-market sandwich shop. And that's definitely not a bad thing.”

French’s Food Co. also has its sights on spicy. “Last year, we introduced an Asian Sweet Chili Sauce within the Frank’s brand, and it’s been a real success,” says Trip Kadey, director of culinary for the Parsippany, N.J.-based manufacturer. He notes French’s is about to launch both an Asian Sweet Ginger Sauce and a Sriracha in foodservice.

Yes, sriracha is everywhere. Just ask Zatto, who calls it “the new ketchup.” Sriracha “is showing up in everything from breakfast sandwiches to mayonnaise,” she says.

Right now, Mizkan is seeing high demand for red jalapeño peppers, an ingredient in sriracha. Chili peppers, like red jalapeño peppers, “also provide health benefits like being low in calories but high in potassium, vitamin A and C," Zatto notes. "Chiles are very easy to use and can be applied to almost any production scenario. They can be roasted, frozen and retorted in the processing plant. In manufacturing, they can be used fresh, baked, frozen or in the kettle cooking process.

“Green chilis are among the most widely used in the U.S. because of their mild flavor, ranging from 0 to 300 Scoville units,” she continues. “Green sauces are on trend and increasing in demand, including green salsas, green enchilada sauces and green moles.” Enter the new Mizkan Border line of cooking chilis, featuring tomatillo, green chili and green and red jalapeños, available diced, puréed, frozen and individually quick frozen.

Consumers have taken interest in spices that hail from further East, as well.

Another flavor on the rise as an ingredient and a sauce in Korean cuisine is Gochujang, a thick red sauce made from fermented soybeans with a hot, sweet, and pungent flavor, Zatto says.

“Gochujang’s success is partly due to the rise of Korean food in mainstream cuisine. It also meets the complex flavor requirements of those seeking authenticity in cuisine.”

It’s not just the kick that people crave. “For years, adding spice to recipes and formulations was simply to add heat,” Zatto says. “But today, consumers like the juxtaposition of heat balanced with sweet, hot, sour and umami flavors in dishes. For example, the combination of preserved lemons with olives in a spread, or the addition of a smoky spice such as smoked paprika is what is needed to give a recipe complexity.”

As with most flavors, foodservice heavily influences the condiments category. So, too, do food bloggers and the Food Network’s 24-hour programming, Zatto reports. “Chefs in restaurants and in the media are using chilis and spices to create pungent, hot and bold flavor profiles that lead to a more interesting cuisine. Chefs may pair chilis that create instant heat on the tongue with others that bring out heat slowly in a more earthy or nutty way.”

Going bold

Last December, McCormick & Co., Hunt Valley, Md., announced its own list of Top Flavors and Food Trends for 2014 and Beyond. They include the aforementioned consumer obsession with chili peppers plus Indian flavors and both Brazilian and Mexican cuisine. McCormick’s top five flavors: aji amarillo, a hot Peruvian yellow chili with bold, fruity flavor; kashmiri masala, an often homemade blend of spices from northern India featuring cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, black pepper, cloves and ginger; tea, which is now being used rubs, broths and marinades; chamoy sauce, a unique Mexican condiment made from apricot, lime, chilies and spices; and cassava flour, also known as manioc or tapioca flour, a Brazilian staple prized for its versatility.

According to Laurie Harrsen, director of consumer communications & public relations for McCormick, additional trends include bold and dual-bold flavors and combinations that both complement and contrast one another — such as sweet & spicy mango jalapeño; regional BBQ flavors, both American and Global (read: Asian); authentic ethnic flavors, both Latin and Asian; added sweetness from fruits and maple; and sophistication, including herb/Italian blends and flavors.

"Many restaurants are recognized for their iconic sauces and creating signature sauces,” Harrsen says. Meanwhile, “Sensory and indulgence are the most important mega trends,” whether at retail or on a menu.

“Consumers are getting bored with the traditional,” Harrsen asserts. Hence the excitement over elevated additions to the condiments aisle and restaurants.

“The demand for hot and exotic cuisine is here to stay as American palates take their dining cues from fiery and authentic flavors offered by Latin, Asian, African and Indian cuisines,” says Zatto, adding that “Americans seek variety in flavors from all sources.”

“As American tastes continue to progress and appreciate global flavor profiles, peppers will continue to be a key element in main courses, sides, sauces, marinades and more,” she continues.

Moving forward, both consumers and chefs alike will “want easy access to new flavors that are simple, real and versatile enough to be used to marinade, braise, grill or even become a dip, spread or flavor base for a dressing,” Kadey says.

“The one thing consumers still demand is flavor,” he concludes. “Big, bold flavor, authentic and real flavors, and often global flavors.”

In other words, awesome sauces.

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