Stand Up SaucesCustomers who work with Ventura Foods, City of Industry, Calif., an expert in making custom sauces and dressings, are asking for bold flavors—proprietary, high profile flavors that make their products stand out, says Frank Stynes, senior vice president. “Many times, they focus on what they want the end product to look or taste like. We work backwards and use the right ingredients to get there.” Some products can be taken right off the shelf, but customizing products produces the most unique results. The company is a conglomeration of several businesses. One manufactures Hidden Valley Ranch dressings.
Ventura Foods does offer custom blended dressings and sauces of all kinds, but also has a large selection of existing products. It offers at least 40 distinct formulations for ranch dressings and manufactures about 20 different types of mayonnaise. “In most cases, our products are used as ingredients. We may sell a ranch formula to a manufacturer, who will then market it to several customers. The manufacturer may want a different version for each customer. Or, the manufacturer may be looking for a signature item. For example, he may use one of our ranch formulations on a chicken breast as a marinade and sell it that way. That uniqueness allows him to create a brand identity which is profitable,” Stynes explains.
Mayonnaise is another item with a lot of variability. The company's 20 or so mayonnaise bases differ in taste, texture and viscosity. There is a mayonnaise that is pink, similar to Thousand Island dressing. Lately, customers have been very excited about mayonnaise with hot flavor profiles, such as those that include chipotle peppers.
Processors choose a mayonnaise based on its functionality. For instance, the viscosity is very important in cole slaw and potato salad, as the product should be thicker and cling well. Depending on formulator's needs, the mayonnaise can be used from the package or pumped in. “Viscosity is not a reflection of a higher or lesser quality,” Stynes says. “Viscosity is separate from quality—it is really designed to meet the functionality of the customer.”
Additionally, the company offers varying degrees of colors, such as white and yellow mayonnaises. “Some people associate yellow with richness, while white is perceived as a very fresh product. The mayonnaise also is available in full fat and fat-free versions.
Helping Customers Control CostsThe company also manufactures all varieties of barbecues sauces—it is one of the company's best selling categories. Other products that are part of its portfolio include shortening and oils, butter blends, margarines, tomato-based sauces and salsas, soup bases and flavored dressings.
Recently introduced was Sunglow Ultra, a unique butter flavor system that combines butter with a margarine base that can be used in all butter applications. Sunglow Ultra is a heat stable product that can be used in all cooking and baking applications. The product has been well received, says Stynes, because the product mimics real butter, while containing significantly less butter. Because butter costs can fluctuate dramatically, the product helps manufacturers stabilize their production costs, through long-term pricing programs.