A. Elizabeth Sloan

The demand for restaurant-style foods at home, a new everyday gourmet attitude, and the demise of the family recipe repertoire are creating unprecedented demand for creative sauces, marinades, condiments, and dressings.

Four in 10 consumers (42%) are more interested in trying new flavors than they were a year ago; 37% feel that way about new cuisines, according to Technomic’s 2011 Consumer Flavor Trend Report. Just over half of diners are more likely to visit a restaurant that offers new/innovative flavors, and 38% are willing to pay more for uniquely flavored foods.

When trying to make more exciting meals at home, 59% of meal preparers want help from sauces/flavorings, 18% want complete kits, 15% prefer to make it from scratch, and 7% want to buy heat-and-eat items, explains the Hartman Group’s 2009 Re-inventing Convenience Report.

According to the Food Marketing Institute’s Power of Meat 2012, 85% of shoppers prepare marinated meat/poultry, 58% use a store-bought marinade, and 36% a homemade mix. With 49% of grillers barbecuing all year round, 71% buying less expensive meats every time they shop, and 43% regularly choosing leaner cuts of meat, the future for marinades looks stronger still.

According to Mintel’s Cooking Sauces and Marinades—U.S., a 2011 report, 53% of consumers prefer spicy/hot flavors for their sauces/marinades, 49% authentic/U.S. regional, 46% sweet, and 44% ethnic. Colman’s, a 200-year-old mustard brand, has just introduced a new “fiery” variety.

Time constraints and more limited cooking skills are driving interest in cooking/skillet sauces, used by one-quarter of meal preparers ages 18–44, reports Mintel; 44% of those aged 45+ use condensed/dry soups as a sauce. Campbell’s new Skillet Sauces are well positioned in the marketplace.

With one-quarter of meal preparers using their oven and 23% their slow cooker more than five years ago, sauces designed for specific appliances will be in high demand. According to the 2011 Gallup Study of Dinner, 40% of consumers served a casserole and 12% served a stir-fry in a typical week.

Meal base/starter sauces such as Wine Country Kitchens’ Country Pot Roast Slow Cooker Sauce or Ainsley Harriott’s Hungarian Goulash Sauce from the United Kingdom also provide an easy meal solution. Light sauces (e.g., those made with an herbed oil base for pasta, potatoes, or vegetables) are also gaining in popularity.

With the incidence of home entertaining up 38% over 2011, according to SymphonyIRI’s 2012 State-of-the-Snack Foods Industry Report, it’s not surprising that sales of gourmet sauces, condiments, and dips topped $1.4 billion in specialty food stores in 2011 (+8%), according to the National Association for the Specialty Food Trade.

American Culinary Federation (ACF) chefs surveyed by the National Restaurant Assn. in 2011 cited newly fabricated cuts of meat (e.g., pork flat iron), nontraditional fish, and inexpensive/underutilized cuts of meat (e.g., brisket), among the hot center-of-the-plate trends for 2012, and look for new sauces and marinade flavors to follow suit. Mid-Atlantic, Hawaiian, Texas BBQ, New England, and the Pacific Northwest lead diner interest for American regional sauces/cuisines, according to Mintel’s Dining Out—U.S., a 2012 report.

One-third of consumers enjoy fusion flavors; 47% would like more restaurants to offer sauces that feature a combination of flavors. This is especially true for younger diners, according to Technomic.

Wasabi, Baja, hummus, tahini, garlic aioli, Giardiniera, and basil pesto are among the fastest-growing sandwich sauces in restaurants, reports Datassential. Thai curry, sweet chili, Asian chipotle, and Thai mustard are among McDonald’s new Popcorn Chicken dipping sauces.

For restaurant salads, more exotic salad dressings hold the highest appeal. Raspberry, Greek, chipotle, ginger, and peanut are among the leading dressings in limited-service restaurants, according to Technomic’s 2012 The Left Side of the Menu Soup & Salad Report.

ACF chefs named ethnic-inspired breakfast items, including sauces and syrups, as the top trend for breakfast in 2012; 25% of diners want more ethnic items at breakfast, according to Technomic’s 2012 Global Foods Trends report.

Dessert sauces, drizzles, and fruit purees are well positioned for the fast-emerging mini-cake, ethnic custard/cookie, and Euro dessert trends. Being able to customize sauces/condiments/spreads is important for six in 10 diners, according to Technomic’s Flavor Report; 39% will pay more for a dipping sauce/condiment they want. Restaurant/chef signature sauces influence 46% of diners to order the item.


A. Elizabeth Sloan,
Contributing Editor
President, Sloan Trends Inc., Escondido, Calif.
[email protected]