Home cooks love to use sauces and marinades to transform a recipe and add interest to otherwise ordinary dishes. They're also easy ways to venture into ethnic cuisines. That means food formulators are challenged each year to create new flavor twists in sauces products that are both easy to use and healthy.
Condiments appear to have a bright future as consumers are increasingly interested in bold flavors and gourmet cooking. Sauces, dressings and marinades are projected to show solid sales growth going forward. Mintel Group (www.mintel.com) reports sales in these categories grew 12 percent between 2010 and 2015, and expects them to continue rising about 13 percent from 2015 to 2020, reaching $6.2 billion.
Hot sauce is hot
Hot sauce is not only "hot," as a flavor booster, it's becoming mainstream. This sub-category of sauces is among the 10 fastest growing in the U.S. and boasts more than $1 billion a year in sales worldwide, according to Barb Stuckey, president and chief innovation officer at contract product development firm Mattson (www.mattsonco.com), Foster City, Calif.
Hot and spicy flavors have taken off in the past decade, as family owned McIlhenny (www.tabasco.com/mcilhenny-company) knows well. It has taken Tabasco's original bright chili pepper sauce to new heights, expanding into seven varieties, ranging from mild to wild: Green Jalapeño; Sweet & Spicy; smoky Chipotle; Buffalo Style; Habanero and Garlic Pepper. The Louisiana company also makes marinades and condiments such as Caribbean Style Steak Sauce, spiced with Tabasco's signature peppery flavor. Tabasco is co-branded in Heinz Tomato Ketchup, A1 Steak Sauce and Plochman's mustard to name a few, and is seasoning many other products, including salad dressings, spreads and sauces.
Renfro Foods (www.renfrofoods.com) says sweet heat and fruity flavors are here to stay. Its barbecue sauce, salsa and nacho cheese sauces flavored with ghost peppers are vastly popular. "At farmer's markets, you'll find blueberry jalapeno, strawberry serrano, habanero blood orange and chipotle barbecue sauces with brown sugar," explains Doug Renfro, president. "But after several years, the ghost pepper trend has accelerated. People love the endorphin rush, the addition of flavor to boring foods, the aroma of the various peppers. For years, there was a fast-growing demand for ultra-hot, but the only available products were premium, gourmet priced. We were first to have a nationally available, moderately priced ghost pepper sauce."
Asian flavors have soared in interest, giving sriracha chili sauce a cult following. The fiery flavor is in everything lately, from traditional Vietnamese dishes to mayo, potato chips, even candy. A mix of red pepper, vinegar and garlic, the wildly popular sauce has been popularized by Huy Fong Foods' owner David Tran (www.huyfong.com). Huy Fong's crimson red Sriracha Sauce, in a green-capped bottle featuring a rooster graphic, has hit double-digit sales growth each year without Tran spending a single cent on advertising. Tran arrived in Los Angeles in 1980 from Vietnam, and established a family business now leading the Asian hot sauce category.
Sriracha sauce, too, has stretched into co-branding arrangements. Kraft Heinz in 2015 launched Heinz Tomato Ketchup Blended with Sriracha Flavor to capitalize on the continued strong growth of chili sauces. Huy Fong Sriracha also combined its sauce with Red Gold Tomato Ketchup for its own Sriracha Ketchup, marketed by Red Gold (www.redgoldtomatoes.com) and packaged similarly to Huy Fong's Sriracha Sauce.
Gochujang is another flavor elevating the eating experience. Makers of the sweet but hot Korean pepper paste, like Chung One Jung (www.gochujangsauce.com), are hoping to snare some of Sriracha's success.
Pasta sauce innovation continues
Pasta sauce is one of the biggest sub-categories in the sauce category. Italian foods may be mainstream in the U.S. now, but that hasn't stopped innovation, or attempts at more interesting versions of traditional "spaghetti sauce."