Sales of refrigerated sauces marinades grew 19.9% from 2001-06, but products like McCormick & Co.’s Slow Cooker Seasonings and Grill Mates captured consumers’ attention in the dry sauce segment.

According to Mintel International, sales of cooking sauces and marinades in the U.S. were expected to generate sales of roughly $1.4 billion in 2006. Although sales remained constant from 2001-06, when inflation is taken into account, the market has actually dropped 11% since 2001. Factors contributing to the decline include the rising popularity of pre-marinated meats, the number of consumers who like to make “homemade marinades” and the desire among an aging population to reduce sodium intake.
Quest for Convenience Dampens the Category
Many food and beverage manufacturers recognize the need to consider the on-the-go lifestyles of consumers when creating their products. Yet even in a category focused on  convenience like packaged cooking sauces and marinades, consumers continue to seek ultra-convenient options. This trend is demonstrated by the shift away from dry sauces in favor of wet sauces that require less preparation and produce less mess. Food, drug and mass merchandiser (FDM) sales of wet sauces, excluding Wal-Mart, increased 4.3% from 2004-06 to $612 million, while sales of dry sauces dropped 2.2% to $577 million. Furthermore, sales of refrigerated sauces/marinades are growing at the fastest rate (19.9% from 2001-06 in FDM outlets, excluding Wal-Mart) because consumers believe these products offer better quality and freshness than their shelf-stable counterparts. Products such as Nestlé’s Buitoni Refrigerated Sauce and Contadina Sauce contributed to the success in the wet sauces segment. Meanwhile, products like McCormick & Co.’s Slow Cooker Seasonings and Grill Mates captured consumers’ attention in the dry sauce segment.
Perhaps the most telling evidence of the convenience trend is the proliferation of pre-seasoned and pre-marinated meats—which negatively impact the cooking sauce and marinade market. Tyson Foods, the largest meat processor in the world, is using pre-seasoned meats to drive sales. In fact, the company plans to drive sales 50% through such “value-added” products. Even retailers are infringing on category sales by offering pre-marinating services. Safeway, for example, launched a “marinade service” offering shoppers the option of having fresh cuts of meat marinated at no additional cost.
According to the 2004 National Meat Case Study, pork is the leader in value-added products, with 12% of pork packages featuring marinades or seasoning. The meat industry anticipates the growth in pre-marinated meats has just begun and is spurring demand by experimenting with marinating methods, highlighting underutilized cuts of beef and expanding flavor innovations. Unlike chicken consumption, which has increased significantly, per capita consumption of beef has been flat, due in part to rising costs. In response, meat industry suppliers are promoting value cuts of beef to cater to price-conscious shoppers, many of whom require marinades to add flavor and increase tenderness. While this could spark increased interest in category sales, meat suppliers are also increasing pre-marinated offerings of lower-priced beef cuts. Overall, pre-marinated meats increase visual appeal of the meat itself, offer portion control and longer shelflife—not to mention meeting the desire for greater convenience.
Despite the prevalence of pre-marinated meats, Mintel research indicated that 64% of respondents who use marinades use “homemade versions.” Some of the reasons respondents cite for not using ready-made sauces is that homemade versions are tastier (40%) and healthier (32%). Indeed, suppliers of cooking sauces and marinades must contend with significant competition outside the category.

Asian sauces account for a large percentage of the cooking sauce and marinades market, validating the notion that consumers are seeking more ethnic taste experiences, and consumer interest has broadened to include bold flavors. For example, House of Tsang launched General Tsao Sauce, which balances slightly sweet, spicy and tangy flavors.

Healthy Choices

Manufacturers of cooking sauces and marinades are more cognizant of health trends and are adapting new product development to meet current demands. As a reflection of the pursuit of healthiness, chicken consumption is on the rise. With annual per capita consumption up 11.7% from 2001-05, market players are responding with an influx of cooking sauces and marinades to liven up the flavor of chicken. According to Mintel’s exclusive consumer research, 88% of respondents use marinades on chicken. In 2006, 120 new sauces for chicken had been launched, per the Mintel Global New Products Database (GNPD)—more than double the number of new product launches in 2004.
An area emerging in response to health trends is the use of marinades on vegetables. While only 7% of Mintel’s respondents indicated such applications, the opportunity to make vegetables tastier, yet still healthy, through marinades is an untapped opportunity for both makers and marketers. 
Heightened interest in health issues has also spawned demand for all-natural and organic meats. The Organic Trade Association reports that organic meats and poultry are the fastest growing organic food, up 55% in 2005 over 2004. Organic condiments such as ketchup, mustard, salsa, innovative sauces and salad dressings were the second-fastest growing category, with a 24% increase in sales. Some consumers who buy natural meats say they taste better than conventionally raised meats. Mintel’s research found that 11% of consumers do not use marinades or seasoning because they “don’t want it getting in the way of the taste of the meat.”
Consequently, the rise in sales of organic meats could lessen the need for marinades. However, to match the rising interest in all-natural and organic products, purveyors of cooking sauces and marinades are launching more products to fit this need. Between 2004 and 2006, the number of new cooking sauces and marinades with “natural” claims increased 61.4%, while products with an organic claim declined by 1.8%, per GNPD.  World Variety Produce promotes the Melissa’s Good Life Food product line, which includes organic stir fry sauces, marinades, tofu sauces, grilling sauces and dip mixes. The line capitalizes on flavor trends with sophisticated offerings such as Lime Cilantro, Smokey Chipotle and Thai Peanut marinades.
The healthiness of cooking sauces and marinades, often laden with sodium, is a concern for some consumers. In particular, people (most often older consumers) who need to monitor and/or limit sodium intake due to health problems are likely to avoid packaged marinades. Aware of such concerns, suppliers have launched lower sodium versions, such as the May 2006 debut of Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce and Mrs. Dash release of new 10-minute Marinades, which are said to be free of salt.

Consumers have long been concerned about the sodium levels of cooking sauces and marinades. In response, processors have launched lower sodium alternatives, such as Kikkoman Less Sodium Soy Sauce and Mrs. Dash’s 10-minute Marinades, which are said to be free of salt. 

Flavor Inspirations

Another important factor in the cooking sauce and marinades market is the influence of ethnic populations. According to Simmons NCS, nine out of 10 black respondents are slightly more likely to use some type of seasoning with penetration, in comparison to 82% of white households and 60% of other races. From 2001-06, the black population increased 5.7%, to represent 13.1% of the total U.S. population. As such, this is an important demographic to target, and marketers and manufacturers are wise to recognize their flavor preferences.
The second-largest and -fastest growing demographic is the Hispanic population. Growing 18.8% from 2001-06, Hispanics represent nearly 16% of the total U.S. population. Such shifts in the population have served to increase the prevalence of Hispanic food and flavor influences, which has also encouraged growing interest in other ethnic flavors, especially Asian, Indian and Mediterranean. In fact, Asian sauces account for an increasing percentage of the cooking sauce and marinades market, validating the notion that consumers are increasingly seeking more ethnic taste experiences. According to Mintel, FDM sales of Asian sauces increased sales 3% from 2004-06, generating 15% of total market sales. Suppliers are consistently launching new products to meet flavor demands, such as La Choy’s Garlic Ginger Stir Fry Sauce, which is said to be inspired by traditional Asian cuisine.
Consumer interest has broadened to include bold flavors, and combining fruit-sweet-hot profiles has emerged as an attractive option. Many Asian products meet such demands. In 2006, House of Tsang launched General Tsao Sauce, which balances slightly sweet, spicy and tangy flavors. Classic flavor profiles still remain popular, however, and suppliers continue to expand traditional flavor marinades. Market leader McCormick & Co. added Parmesan to its Oven Baked Seasonings line in 2006. More sophisticated combinations are also a hot trend. In 2006, Stubb’s released Rosemary-ginger Spice Rub and promoted it as an ideal seasoning for chicken, pork, fish and vegetables. Yet another example of unusual ingredients being utilized in marinades is found in Lulu Lavender and Honey Grilling Sauce—a product infused with the light perfume of lavender blossoms and said to impart a crisp, flavorful crust to chicken and duck, lamb and whole grilled fish.

Tavern on the Green, the New York City landmark restaurant, is launching an exclusive line of branded sauces, marinades and dipping oils, available through a new company called Some 12 products are available, including three signature sauces: the "1870 Steak Sauce," marking the year the Tavern was built; the "Central Park Signature Dipping Oil;" and the "Chandelier Chardonnay Marinade." "Research shows that people are craving diverse, rich flavored foods," said Howie Jacobson, partner, "The market for marinades, sauces and similar products is at an all-time high, with consumers being encouraged to cook at home by chefs, grocery chains, and cooking shows.

The Future—Marinades for One

Mintel predicts the total U.S. sales of cooking sauces and marinades will remain virtually unchanged at current prices but is likely to decrease 16% at constant prices from 2006 to 2011. Flavor expansion represents a future opportunity for new product innovation. Flavor inspirations will likely be driven by the rising popularity of ethnic marinades and sauces, with inspirations coming from South American, Indian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. Health trends will also continue to influence new products, with sodium content and all-natural/organic claims playing a major role in marketing.
However, Mintel suggests the growing number of one-person households could be a factor that may compromise future sales. Mintel’s research indicated people who cook solely for themselves are less likely to use marinades (70% versus 85% of all home cooks) and packaged seasonings (66% versus 82% of all home cooks). Between 1995 and 2005, the number of one-person households increased 20.7%. If this trend continues, Mintel believes it is imperative that market suppliers work toward single-serve innovation in the cooking sauce and marinade category.

This article contains information from the Mintel report “Cooking Sauces and Marinades—U.S., December 2006.” Please visit for more information or call Mintel at 312-932-0400.