Around the world, the economic struggles of 2008 have impacted people’s mentalities and shopping habits. Additionally, growing awareness of health and wellness issues has caused many shoppers to think twice about the food they feed themselves and their families. Globally, these two issues are among the most prevalent concerns for consumers. Many are looking for the food products and lifestyle changes that make it easier and more economical to live healthily.
In the U.S., these issues have prompted many consumers to alter their lifestyle habits and shopping practices. One of today’s most ubiquitous cultural transformations is consumers’ growing propensity to create more enjoyable experiences in the home, instead of going out. Dining habits have been influenced directly by this lifestyle shift. In fact, in April 2008, Mintel reported that 46% of U.S. consumers claimed to prepare more meals at home than they had the year before. Clearly, Americans were finding new ways to enjoy staying in and dining at home.
As consumers look to save money and calories, dining at home provides them the opportunity to do both, and this has been a boon for many grocery retailers and food and beverage manufacturers. Consumers seeking to emulate the gourmet experiences found in restaurants are now looking to products, such as cooking sauces, seasonings and dressings, to help them bring new and unusual flavors and inspiration to otherwise ordinary dishes.
Sauces and Seasonings: New Tastes
According to Mintel Oxygen, the U.S. cooking sauces and marinades market achieved sales of $3.3 billion in 2007. Sales are projected to increase in coming years, but, recently, Mintel has observed a decrease in overall new product introductions. Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD) reports that only 1,948 new sauces and seasonings products were launched in the U.S. in 2008--a 15% decrease from the 2,291 new products launched two years prior in 2006.
Sauces and seasonings present a prime platform for consumers to experiment with flavors and ingredients that may be new or unfamiliar to them. As American palates continue to diversify, consumers have become more intrigued with cuisines from all regions of the world. Additionally, the popularity of dishes that use authentic ingredients and traditional flavors is growing, as people look to create genuine dining experiences in their homes. This heightened awareness of and interest in global cuisine has, unsurprisingly, trickled into the cooking sauces and seasonings segment. Cooking sauces and seasonings are an easy, affordable way for even amateur cooks to add new flavor elements at home.
There are several factors contributing to American consumers’ interest in ethnic cuisines. For instance, the immigrant population in the U.S. continues to grow, so authentic flavors and ingredients have become increasingly commonplace both in grocery aisles and on restaurant menus. Immigration brings changes to the country’s racial and ethnic composition, which influences food flavors and preferences at a broader level. As these flavors and ingredients become more mainstream, they begin to mix with the flavors and ingredients of other traditional cuisines, creating an entirely new arena of intrigue and experimentation for chefs at home.
Consumers are frequently introduced to ethnic food via first-hand global travels, and many wish to recreate their experiences abroad through food preparation at home. However, a growing number of consumers are being exposed to authentic cuisines from the comfort of their own homes via cooking and travel television shows. The popularity of diverse cooking shows and the rise of the celebrity chef, combined with travels abroad, have greatly influenced the proliferation of ethnic cuisine and flavors. This influence is particularly pronounced in the sauces and seasonings sector. According to Mintel GNPD, some of the more noteworthy ethnic flavors emerging in the category in 2008 include wasabi, coconut, habanero and ancho chiles.
For consumers seeking a traditional Thai meal at home, Full Circle’s Organic Peanut Satay Sauce features an authentic recipe. This robust barbecue marinade can also be used on noodles and boasts a blend of roasted peanuts, coconut milk and flavorful Thai spices. Some manufacturers have chosen to dabble in a variety of offerings that feature flavors from around the world. For example, Suzanne Sea Salt Rubs Seasoning Blend features four different seasoning varieties from four regions of the globe, including Tuscan, Provence, Southwest and Memphis BBQ varieties. This product combines the finest quality sea salt with aromatic herbs and spices that pair well with meat, poultry and vegetables.
New Flavors From Other Countries
Mintel predicts that some of the top flavors to watch in 2009 will be inspired by or borrowed from ethnic cuisines, and many of these flavors are well represented in the cooking sauces and seasonings category. For example, Mintel predicts that chimichurri, a traditional Latin American sauce generally paired with grilled meats, will see much greater activity in 2009. Customarily made with a blend of parsley or cilantro, garlic, salt, pepper, onion, paprika and olive oil, chimichurri sauce provides consumers with a flavorful way to spice up plain steak. But, it also gives Americans a way to sample traditional Latin American flavors. Cordoba Foods recently brought this authentic sauce to American grocery aisles with its introduction of Gaucho Ranch Original Argentinean Chimichurri Steak Sauce.
Also topping Mintel’s list of 2009 emerging flavors are ethnic seasonings that are seeing more activity in the category, including the Indian spice masala and the African chili peri peri. Masala’s authentic Indian spice combination, which traditionally includes cinnamon, cumin, coriander and cardamom, makes it a prime base for rubs and sauces. Although masala saw minimal activity in the U.S. in 2008, a sign of its impending popularity may be Target’s recent introduction of its Archer Farms Tikka Masala Simmer Sauce. This private label formulation features a rich and creamy tomato sauce seasoned with ginger, onions and garlic that claims to be a flavorful accompaniment to chicken and tofu dishes.
For ethnic flavors with a spicy kick, peri peri sauce hails from Africa and provides a variety of meat dishes with a potent chili pepper flavor. DiChickO’s Peri-Peri Marinade Sauce was recently introduced in the U.S., promising to provide consumers with an aggressive marinade that is capable of penetrating and tenderizing meat to deliver powerful and distinct flavor to the final product. Sauces such as this give people an easy way to step up the creativity and “punch” of their cooking.
Beyond ethnic flavors, many manufacturers in the cooking sauces, seasonings and dressings sector have experimented with unexpected ingredients, such as fruit, botanicals and herbs, to create gourmet meal appeal. Similar to the use of ethnic flavors, intriguing and unexpected ingredients provide consumers easy access to flavor profiles and ingredient combinations they might not otherwise be able to create on their own. By being able to create these combinations at home, new flavorful sauces and seasonings give people a risk-free way to experiment with new tastes.
With more manufacturers seeking to differentiate their products in the crowded marketplace, there has been much activity with sweet and savory sauce combinations. This attraction of opposites has created a buzz, as people have caught on to the excitement of such flavor combinations. Citrus and berry fruits provided much flavor inspiration, and 2008 saw no shortage of unexpected fruit flavors in products that traditionally rely on savory, salty and spicy ingredients. For instance, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market introduced a sauce late in 2008 that provides consumers with an intriguing hot and sweet flavor experience. Fresh & Easy Raspberry Chipotle Grill Sauce is made with raspberries, spicy-smoky chipotle pepper, onion and garlic, and claims to be a prime complement to meat, fish and poultry dishes.
Superfruits, in particular, saw much activity in the category this year. These antioxidant-rich fruits have gained much popularity across various food and beverage segments in recent years, and their appearance in cooking sauces and seasonings products is significant. With high levels of nutrients and distinct flavors, Superfruits, such as pomegranate, have proven to be popular ingredients in flavorful sauces. Pomegranate is America’s most popular Superfruit, and according to Mintel GNPD, U.S. sauces and seasonings incorporating pomegranate increased by 33% from 2006-2008. Kozlowski Farms, for example, introduced two dressing products in 2008 that included pomegranate, including its signature Pomegranate & Fig Vinegar and its Pomegranate & Walnut Vinaigrette.
Similar to the use of fruit, a growing number of sauces and seasonings products used natural floral essences and botanicals to add gourmet, upscale appeal in 2008. With their innovative recipes and intriguing flavors and essences, botanicals set sauces, seasonings and salad dressings apart. For example, Montebello Kitchens introduced a dressing and marinade range that includes a Sweet Rosehip & Herb variety. This all-natural, handcrafted product is made with organic agave nectar, grape seed oil, rosehip and organic seasonings. Similarly, Drew’s All Natural Thai Sesame Lime Dressing and 10 Minute Marinade combines the fruit and herbal essences of lime, tamarind, ginger and lemongrass to create a bold flavor combination. Such botanically inspired sauces and seasonings have the added benefit of appealing to shoppers who look for natural ingredients and products.
Going the Natural Way
Perhaps one of the most pervasive attributes gaining popularity in cooking sauces, seasonings and dressings is the use of all-natural and organic ingredients. Consumers have become more skeptical of products containing artificial ingredients, flavors and preservatives, and manufacturers across all food and beverage categories have formulated new and innovative products to meet the growing demand for more natural and less artificial ingredients. According to Mintel GNPD, from 2006-2008, the “all-natural” claim increased 26% in the sauces and seasonings category. It was the second most frequently cited claim overall. Additionally, organic claims increased 24%.
Natural and organic products not only appeal to those consumers concerned about eating more natural and less artificial foods, but they are also seen as key food choices for consumers concerned about overall health and wellness. According to Mintel Oxygen, between 2003-2008, the U.S. organic food market grew robustly, with a sales increase of 142% during those years. In sauces and seasonings, organic products continue to spark interest. For example, organic products purveyor Amy’s Organic recently introduced a Premium Light in Sodium Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce. The kosher sauce is made with organic, vine-ripened tomatoes and contains 50% less sodium than the regular pasta sauces.
Attention to maintaining healthier overall lifestyles and taking more natural approaches to pursuing good health is growing, and the sauces and seasonings category provides health-conscious consumers with flavorful options for creating healthy meals at home. These products often can add flavor and interest to a dish without adding high levels of fat or additional calories. Several products go further, relying on the inherently healthy attributes of their natural ingredients to promote heath and wellness qualities. For example, Eat in the Raw recently introduced Parma! Vegan Parmesan Seasoning, which is naturally rich in omega-3 and vitamin B12 and is made using only raw organic ingredients.
Some of the more noteworthy health-centric U.S. launches in 2008 include products that provide consumers with convenient, natural compliments to their meals in healthier formats. Gourmè Mist Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for example, takes olive oil and markets it in a spray bottle that allows consumers to enjoy the product without using too much. It easily keeps calories under control, while allowing consumers to cook the way they desire. Furthermore, its organic formulation accentuates the spray oil’s overall healthy attributes. Flavorful salad dressings also provide consumers with an appealing way to dress up a healthy meal. For instance, Bell Buckle Country Store’s Rose & Ivy Burgundy Poppy Seed Salad Dressing boasts an all-natural, handmade formulation that adds a complex flavor experience to salads and other vegetable-based dishes.
Cooking sauces, seasonings and dressings proved to be a segment full of innovation and exploration in 2008. From the use of ethnic flavors and ingredients to fruits and botanicals, this category provided consumers with new and unique flavor experiences across the board. Beyond flavor exploration, it is clear that health and wellness will continue to influence this segment as well, and that natural, organic and health-centric formulations will persist.
In troubled times, this category provides consumers with affordable access to gourmet meal experiences at home. These products do not require the purchase of special ingredients or equipment in order to prepare, and the convenience and perpetual innovation of cooking sauces and seasonings enhances their continued popularity. Because of their ability to easily and affordably add flavor and intrigue to dishes, Mintel expects continued success for the sauces, seasonings and dressings market. pf
The information in this article was derived from the Mintel Global New Products Database, www.gnpd.com, 312-932-0400.
www.PreparedFoods.com”>www.PreparedFoods.com -- Type in “dressings” or “sauces” for several articles on these subjects
www.gather.com/viewArticle.jsp?articleId=281474977228539 -- Five interesting, ethnic salad dressings
www.gnpd.com -- Mintel Global New Products Database
Going Global: Dressings and Sauces
IN ALL PARTS OF THE WORLD, CONSUMERS SEEK MORE FUNCTION AND VALUE FROM THE PRODUCTS THEY PURCHASE. MANY MANUFACTURERS HAVE RESPONDED BY INTRODUCING NEW FUNCTIONAL BENEFITS TO OTHERWISE ORDINARY PRODUCTS: THE SAUCES AND SEASONINGS CATEGORY HAS BEEN NO EXCEPTION. ACCORDING TO MINTEL GNPD, SAUCE AND SEASONING PRODUCTS MAKING FUNCTIONAL HEALTH CLAIMS INCREASED GLOBALLY BY MORE THAN 140% FROM 2006-2008. MANY MANUFACTURERS EVEN LOOKED OUTSIDE OF THEIR OWN CATEGORIES FOR INSPIRATION.
ONE OF THE MOST PREVALENT WAYS MANUFACTURERS FORMULATE MORE BENEFICIAL COOKING SAUCES, SEASONINGS AND MARINADES IS BY ADDING VITAMINS AND MINERALS. MANY OF THESE PRODUCTS TARGET SPECIFIC AILMENTS OR BODY PARTS, INCLUDING BRAIN FUNCTION, HEART HEALTH AND DIGESTIVE HEALTH. FOR INSTANCE, IN RUSSIA, UNILEVER INTRODUCED A FORTIFIED MAYONNAISE UNDER ITS BECEL BRAND. IT IS POSITIONED AS A HEART-HEALTHY PRODUCT WITH OMEGA-3 AND -6 FATTY ACIDS, VITAMINS B6 AND B12, AND FOLIC ACID. IT IS LOW IN SATURATED FATS AND CHOLESTEROL-FREE.
NATURAL OILS ARE STAPLE INGREDIENTS IN MANY COOKING SAUCES, SEASONINGS AND DRESSINGS. AS MANY CONSUMERS BECOME MORE CONCERNED ABOUT CALORIC INTAKE, FAT-LADEN OILS FREQUENTLY COME UNDER FIRE; HOWEVER, MANUFACTURERS HAVE RECENTLY USED OILS AS A WAY TO PROMOTE BRAIN HEALTH BENEFITS. DURING 2006-2008, SAUCES AND SEASONINGS PRODUCTS MAKING FUNCTIONAL BRAIN HEALTH CLAIMS INCREASED SEVEN-FOLD.
IN PORTUGAL, SOVENA INTRODUCED FULA NUTRI+ VEGETABLE OIL, ENRICHED WITH DHA AND ALA FATTY ACIDS TO SUPPORT OVERALL BRAIN HEALTH AND FUNCTION. ALTHOUGH PRODUCTS LIKE THIS STILL REPRESENT A SMALL PART OF THE GLOBAL MARKET, MINTEL EXPECTS MORE MANUFACTURERS TO USE OMEGA-3 TO PROMOTE BRAIN HEALTH BENEFITS IN SAUCES AND SEASONINGS.