Sauce for the goose and gander

April 5, 2004
Consumers demand bold flavors and brush-and-go simplicity

"What is sauce for the goose may be sauce for the gander, but it is not necessarily sauce for the chicken, the duck, the turkey or the Guinea hen," wrote Alice B. Toklas in the 1930s.

Consumers today agree that variety is the spice of life, so it's no wonder that sauces -- particularly cooking sauces -- registered the largest growth within the sauces and seasonings category in 2003. They accounted for more than half the new product introductions, compared to 41 percent in 2002. And why not? Cooking sauces make whipping up an exotic dish a lot easier for the home gourmet.

Mayonnaise is a $1 billion category, and it's only getting bigger with new varieities like these.

Flavor enhancement is the trend in both cooking sauce and barbecue sauce, such as

McCormick Grill Mates Grilling Sauces, a line from McCormick & Co., Hunt Valley, Md. Varieties that include Teriyaki, Mesquite, Honey Mustard, Roasted Garlic and Herb and Montreal Steak flavors make grilling a snap and they also can be used as dipping sauces.

"There's a distinction between BBQ and grilling flavors," explains Laurie Harrsen, McCormick's director of public relations. "BBQ sauces have a sweeter application and grilling sauces are bolder in flavor. People crave the bolder flavors of grilling sauces, and the brush-and-go simplicity and convenience of BBQ sauces and marinades."

Travel the world in sauce

Consumer desire for ethnic flavors has led to such recent product introductions as Pace Mexican Creations Cooking Sauces from Camden, N.J.-based Campbell Soup Co. The five SKU line -- Roasted Ranchero, Verde with Tomatillos and Jalapenos, Sweet Roasted Onion and Garlic, Taco and Cilantro and Lime , incorporates authentic Mexican and Southwest flavors.

Indian curry sauces, Asian stir-fry sauces, and spicy Cajun sauces also are appealing to consumers seeking new flavor experiences.

Meanwhile, hot sauces have diversified into new and, yes, hotter profiles, such as chipotle pepper from Mcllhenny, the maker of Tabasco brand hot sauce.

Red jalapeno peppers smoked over an open wood fire give Tabasco brand Chipotle Pepper Sauce a unique combination of smokiness and heat, which makes it ideal for a number of dishes.

Likewise, greater variety is the trend in condiments, such as ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.

To that end, Montville, N.J.-based Reckitt Benckiser French's introduced French's GourMayo Flavored Light Mayonnaise in three delicious low-fat flavors: Sun-Dried Tomato, Chipotle Chili and Wasabi Horseradish.

"Mayonnaise is a $1 billion category," says director of new initiatives Marc Birnbaum. "We decided to use our flavor expertise and leverage it into a gourmet niche in grocery." And he adds, "We like to bring a lot of flavor to typical offerings in categories to satisfy consumer desire for new flavor experiences."

Manufacturers of sauces and seasonings are paying more attention to the appearance of their products, creating packaging for both display value and functionality. Inverted squeeze bottles are proliferating, as is classy packaging and design. Moonachie, N.J.-base Boston Tea Co.'s Boston World of Spice Garlic Powder is packaged in an attractive "press-n-pop" can that provides a great seal on the product. Packaging with a combination of functionality and attractive appearance is being emulated across the specialty food business.

Dressings are particularly strong in the gourmet market sector these days. Many of the new products -- including Wild Thyme's Toasted Sesame Wasabi and Fresh Mango Dressings -- exemplify today's most popular flavors.

"Salad dressing continues to be a household staple in most U.S. households with high penetration (89 percent)," Julie Currie, vice president and group account director of ACNielsen, said at the annual meeting of the Association for Dressings and Sauces this past November. "Sales of salad dressings were up 3.1 percent from 2002, driving $1.7 billion in sales," says Currie. "And although consumers are eating more salads, overall they use less dressing and pay more per bottle -- up to $1.63 vs. $1.56 in 2002."

Ragu tops the spaghetti/Italian sauce category, which fell 1.1 percent to $1.4 billion for the 52 weeks ended Nov. 30, according to Information Resources Inc. Ragu garnered $422 million in sales during that period compared to Prego's $292 million, reportsAdvertising Age.

In this carb-aware era, Unilever Bestfoods' Ragu and Campbell Soup Co.'s Prego are repositioning the sauce as more than just a topping for pasta. Instead, the sauces are being touted as versatile ingredients in meat and other carb-free dishes.

Sauces and Seasonings


New products in 2003

Cooking Sauces


Table Sauces


Other Sauces & Seasonings


Dressings, Vinegar & Mayonnaise




Pickled Condiments






Source: Mintel New Products Database


What your favorite condiment reveals about you

A Synovate survey of 1,000 Americans commissioned by the Association for Dressings and Sauces reveals some interesting facts about consumers and condiment sauces, including salsa, salad dressing and mayonnaise. Salsa and ketchup tied for the "favorite" condiment with mayonnaise, salad dressing and barbecue sauce close behind. Mustard was the most popular "second favorite" choice.

Other findings include:

Salsa fanciers -- Salsa's strength is in the West, where consumers are more frequent users. One in four named salsa as their favorite condiment. Compared to consumers in general, those who prefer salsa are more likely to be extroverts and socialize in their spare time. Salsa lovers are the most motivated of any other group. If it's true that you are what you eat, then salsa lovers have that hot and spicy "kick" that motivates them like no other!

Mayonnaise devotees -- Mayonnaise has more appeal for women. Tthey are more likely to use it, and use it more frequently, than men. Half of mayonnaise lovers are introverted and less likely to be competitive, athletic or risk-takers, while the other half rated themselves as the most ambitious of all condiment devotees. Mayo buffs are equally split between being social butterflies and leisure lovers. Of those surveyed, 25 percent use mayonnaise more often than any other condiment.

Barbecue sauce buffs -- Men tend to use and enjoy barbecue sauce more than women. Northeasterners are less likely to use and like BBQ sauce than consumers in other regions. A large percentage of 18-to-24-year-olds say they "love" BBQ and are heavy users. BBQ sauce users are more extroverted than other condiment lovers and describe themselves as more creative, competitive, athletic and witty than other condiment users.

Salad dressing connoisseurs -- Salad dressings are more popular with women than men, and 25 percent of those women "love" salad dressing and use it more than any other condiment sauce. Its usage is strongest in the Northeast and with younger consumers (18-to-24-year-olds, tend to like it best). On average, consumers keep three bottles of salad dressing on hand. The majority is more reserved and self-disciplined than any other group. They are more likely to spend their time pursuing creative endeavors such as crafts or photography.

Mustard mavens -- Mustard is the condiment that truly ties everyone together. There are few significant differences in mustard liking among geographic or gender lines. Mustard usage is strongest among consumers age 35 to 64 and is also favored by those who consider themselves ambitious, self-disciplined and family-oriented. Mustard lovers also rate themselves as shy.

Hot sauce gourmets -- Men aged 18 to 34 living in the South or West prefer hot sauce to others. They are likely to have three bottles of it on hand and are competitive risk-takers. Nearly half prefer social activities such as hanging out with friends or family to all other activities. They are probably the life of the party, too. Hot sauce lovers described themselves as happy, ambitious, spontaneous and risk lovers.

Horseradish epicures -- Men who live in the Northeast and Midwest prefer horseradish to all other condiment sauces. Horseradish epicures skew toward older consumers, age 55 and older. Horseradish lovers are the most family-oriented of any group and also consider themselves more creative than the other condiment connoisseurs. Being family-oriented, it makes perfect "horse" sense that horseradish epicures are most likely to be extroverted and prefer social activities.

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