Spicier flavors, cleaner ingredients dominate today's condiment aisle.
No, it's not just you: It's definitely getting hotter in supermarket condiment sections. In response to consumer interest in spicier cuisines, product offerings -- even all-American stalwarts like ketchup and mustard -- are sporting spicier flavor profiles.
Crystal Snoddy, associate brand manager at Omaha, Neb.-based ConAgra Foods affirms that "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."
ConAgra's latest items to address this desire for bold flavor are Gulden's Sriracha Mustard and Stone Ground Dijon Mustard, both launched last September. "Sriracha has been one of the biggest trend success stories on menus in recent years," notes Snoddy. "In the proliferation stage, this trend has become a mainstream flavor, with a wider range of consumers now familiar with the ingredient."
Also riding the continuing sriracha wave is Red Gold, a tomato processor in Elwood, Ind., which has created co-branded ketchup and salsa products featuring the super-hot chili sauce from Irwindale, Calif-based Huy Fong Foods that started it all. The ketchup is already on store shelves, while the salsa is scheduled to hit retail in May.
And speaking of hot sauce, Texas Pete, a brand of TW Garner Food Co., which a few years back introduced the successful Cha! by Texas Pete Sriracha Sauce, has come out with another entry in the spicy condiment derby: A!Sabor! by Texas Pete, also due in supermarkets by May. "The growth in demand for spicier foods and consumer requests for a hot sauce inspired by Mexican flavors were behind the development of our latest innovation," says Ann Riddle, CEO for Winston-Salem, N.C.-based TW Garner, while according to EVP of Sales Steve DeCorte, the new sauce's "bold, balanced flavor ... was crafted through [a] combination of Mexican spices, sea salt, saut'ed garlic and aged peppers that is ideal for any meal or cuisine."
Since sriracha's run can't last forever, what will be the next flavor to add zing to condiments? Some are predicting harissa, a North African hot sauce or paste made from chili peppers, paprika and olive oil, which is currently available in such products as Saffron Road's Harissa Simmer Sauce, from Stamford, Conn.-based American Halal Co.
Regardless of where it will come from next, spicier fare looks to be here to stay. "More ethnic flavors will appear on the market, as well as spicy flavor imparted in other forms," asserts DeCorte, noting that as a result, "[y]ou will see a greater emphasis on displaying condiments at store perimeters near proteins and on fresh prepared foods."
Promises to Keep
Chester, N.J.-based French's Food Co. has a new spicy offering, too -- French's Bufalo Ketchup made with Franks RedHot Sauce -- but the longtime condiment purveyor is just as concerned with another major trend in the condiment category, as illustrated by the French's Promise Seal on all product packaging.
"It's our commitment to always use the best ingredients and create the best possible products and recipes," explains French's President Elliott Penner.
Two recent products exemplifying this stance are French's Super Yellow Mustard and French's Ketchup with No High Fructose Corn Syrup. "We have always listened to our consumers, changed our products in the way of diverse flavors [and] easier-to-use bottles, and provided value and innovative uses," notes Penner, pledging "[c]lean ingredients across 98 percent of the [company's] portfolio, which also includes French's Fried Onions, French's Worcestershire sauce and Franks RedHot Sauce."
Hellmann's, a brand of Englewood Cliffs, NJ.-based Unilever, has also been busy developing cleaner-ingredient products. The brand's new eggless dressing and sandwich spread, Hellmann's Carefully Crafted, "was developed for anyone who wants the rich, creamy taste of Hellmann's, but wants to avoid GMO-sourced ingredients, eggs, cholesterol, and artificial colors and flavors," says a company representative, while Hellmann's Organic Mayonnaise marks "the first time Hellmann's will be offering an organic mayonnaise, and it will be sold on a mass scale, making it accessible to families across the country."
The company rep adds: "Our Organic Mayonnaise has been certified organic by the USDA, so it contains no artificial flavors or preservatives, and is made with only the finest organic ingredients, including organic cage-free eggs and organic expeller-press oil. Plus Hellmann's Organic [comes] in three delicious flavors: Original, Roasted Garlic and Spicy Chipotle."
Both new products began appearing on shelf in February, with full nationwide distribution expected this month.
"More and more, consumers are looking for their favorite brands to provide products that are wholesome, yet accessible and convenient to fit their busy lifestyles, and, most importantly, deliver on taste and quality," notes the rep. "When developing Hellmann's new organic and eggless products, we kept our consumers at the heart of every decision we made. ... After significant research and testing, we've developed products that are consistent with Hellmann's great taste. The feedback to date has been fantastic."
Additionally, in response to what Snoddy refers to as the "all-natural and organic movement in condiments," ConAgra's latest Gulden's products are all natural, as well as being fat-free.
Heating Up Sales
To move their products off shelves and into shoppers' carts, condiment makers are employing a range of promotional and merchandising tactics.
"Retail marketing programs that we use to support our condiments include ... must-buys, summer/grilling seasonal pricing programs and various merchandising activities," observes ConAgra's Snoddy. "We also execute cross-promotions with other ConAgra brands, for example, "Buy Hebrew National, save $1 on Hunt's Ketchup or Gulden's Mustard.' One of our largest promotions from last year was our seasonal pricing program at Kroger that also featured merchandising display for our Hunt's Ketchup. This Kroger seasonal pricing program drove positive sales for our business during our peak summer season. We also executed a rollback at Walmart on our 28-ounce Natural Ketchup during the start of the summer season. In offering our 28-ounce at a lower price, we were able to drive positive volume gains for this particular SKU."
Continues Snoddy: "We find that our seasonal pricing programs work best, as 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. We also aim to have our consumer load up on larger sizes at the beginning of the season and have seen some of our highest volume lifts on the 35-ounce display activity.
This seasonal approach is also taken by Red Gold, which mentions "[q]uality merchandising around peak consumption periods like Memorial Day and events such as the Super Bowl," and Hellmann's, whose rep notes "two national shopper marketing programs through Catalina and News America to help us raise awareness in a targeted and meaningful way that resonates with our consumers. This is a key time for Hellmann's as our fans look to us for ways to add unique twists to spring and summer dishes."
TW Garner, meanwhile "is heavily engaged in retailer-centric promotions across the nation throughout the year," says DeCorte. "These partnerships range from shelf and store flier promotions to those tied to causes, including helping wounded veterans." In particular, he notes that "[o]n-shelf promotions, such as shelf talkers, with or without promotional couponing, have proven successful, along with recipe cards and automatic coupons."
"Consumers are looking for their favorite brands to provide products that are wholesome, yet accessible and convenient to fit their busy lifestyles, and, most importantly, deliver on taste and quality."
"More ethnic flavors will appear on the market, as well as spicy flavor imparted in other forms."
--Steve DeCorte, TW Garner Food Co.
For more about condiments, visit Progressivegrocer.com/condiments.