January 2012/Prepared Foods -- The troubled economy has led many consumers to rethink their discretionary spending and, in the process, has meant more occasions to cook at home, rather than dining out at a restaurant. According to the Mintel “Cooking Sauces and Marinades--U.S.” report released in April 2011, among home cooks, 52% are cooking more meals at home. What may portend trouble for foodservice sales, however, is serving as something of a boon in grocery segments: With consumers still seeking the robust and authentically ethnic flavors they are accustomed to enjoying in restaurants, the fortunes of sauces and marinades have swelled.

In 2010 alone, 1,778 new sauces and seasonings made their way to store shelves, and the market continues to grow, per the February 2011 Prepared Foods’ article, “Directions in Sauces and Marinades,” which also forecast sauces and marinade sales as expected to reach $4.3 billion in 2012, up from $3.3 billion in 2007. In fact, according to Mintel Oxygen research, the cooking sauces and marinades category grew 20% in U.S. retail sales from 2005-2010, culminating in sales of an estimated $3.7 billion. Furthermore, the research group expects this upward trend to continue, forecasting another 19% growth in the segment’s sales by 2015, although it would appear this could be conditional on the health of the economy.
A similar rationale compelled Global Industry Analysts Inc. to forecast the global market for condiments, sauces, dressings and seasonings will reach $72 billion by 2015 in its “Condiments, Sauces, Dressings and Seasonings” report. The analyst firm contends this growth will be “spurred by increasing preference for cheaper home-cooked foods in times of global financial crisis. In addition, hectic consumer lifestyles and the increasing demand for healthy, natural and convenience foods, as well as ethnic cuisine, will drive sales for food accompaniments, such as condiments, sauces, dressings and seasonings.”

Judging by the Mintel research, consumers who cook/prepare meals at home do realize the benefits of sauces and marinades. It finds 83% of American adults who cook/prepare meals at home indicate they use sauces/marinades or dry seasonings in preparing those meals. Just less than three quarters (74%) of home cooks utilize store-bought marinades, with 51% using homemade sauces requiring them to combine their own ingredients.

Broadening Food Horizons

As Global Industry Analysts found, “broadening food horizons—with an ever-increasing number of people journeying abroad and consumers the world over seeking local flavors in the products [they purchase]—provide opportunities for companies to experiment with new flavors and bring out innovative products.” The Center for Culinary Development (CCD) report, “Condiments and Sauces: Culinary Trend Mapping,” delved into the evolving American palate and the ability to differentiate foods inexpensively with condiments and sauces. Aioli, it explained as an example, is familiar to many consumers, but new takes on what is basically a garlic mayonnaise incorporate lemon, basil and chipotle, as well as unique interpretations featuring parsley, harissa and avocado.

Likewise emerging, the report contends, is gastrique, described as “a classic French reduction of sugar and vinegar, resulting in a thick syrupy sauce.” Another trend out of Europe, specifically the Catalan region of Spain, is Romesco. This traditional sauce promises an intense, rich flavor that could find its way into American dips, sauces, marinades and more. Also coming to the fore, the report believes, could be sriracha, a “fiery sauce inspired by traditional Southeast Asian hot sauces made from ground chile peppers, vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt.”
Retail introductions of marinades have themselves been venturing into bolder flavors, as evidenced by a pair of McCormick introductions under its Lawry’s brand. Its recent introduction of Szechuan Sweet and Sour BBQ marinade promises to “give barbecued chicken, ribs or pork chops sweet-and-sour flavor with a touch of Szechuan heat” and incorporates pineapple juice, soy sauce and spices, such as ginger, cloves, paprika and red pepper, as well as onion, red bell pepper and extracts of paprika.

The same brand also eschewed some of the recent concerns about sodium in the diet, with Seasoned Salt Marinade, boasting sweet-and-savory spices and seasonings, such as paprika, turmeric and natural flavors. It embraced the trend toward ethnic foods, with Tuscan Sun-dried Tomato Marinade with Minced Garlic and Olive Oil, promising such flavors as oregano, rosemary, sun-dried tomatoes and sweet red bell peppers.
McCormick has also released a number of marinades under its Grill Mates brand in the retail market of late, with a notable pair of them focusing on low-country influences. Carolina Country Marinade blends tangy mustard and spices, including red pepper, onion, Dijon mustard and garlic, while the Grill Mates Backyard Brew Marinade is described as “a full-bodied blend of garlic, savory herbs, spices and beer.” It has a similar ingredient profile to the Carolina Country variety but adds orange peel, black pepper, paprika, green bell pepper and, as mentioned, beer—noted as malted barley, corn syrup, hops and yeast on the ingredient legend.

One of the ingredients common to all of these recent retail introductions, namely xanthan gum, was also among a group of ingredients found to enhance the texture and stability of white sauces used in ready meals.1 Specifically, researchers from Ghent University incorporated three hydrocolloids—guar gum, xanthan gum and carboxymethylcellulose—into formulations of white sauces for ready-to-eat meals, and all three ingredients produced sauces indistinguishable from a sauce made with modified starch.
The ingredients, in particular xanthan gum, the researchers noted, may therefore offer sauce manufacturers options to overcome the limitations of modified starches, which can include texture loss and water exudation.
“All hydrocolloids significantly reduced the amount of water exudate. Hereby, especially xanthan proved to be very effective,” the researchers wrote in the Journal of Food Engineering. “Sensory evaluations revealed that for the concentrations investigated, only the presence of xanthan could be detected by the consumers as an increased firmness.”

They prepared a range of white sauces (bechamel), each with guar gum, xanthan gum and carboxymethylcellulose used at either 0.1 or 0.25%, or with modified starch.

The hydrocolloids produced thicker sauces, though that thickness decreased after 30 days of refrigeration. The sauces also underwent sensory testing, and the sauce formulated with xanthan gum was perceived as firmer than the others, while firmness differences were not noted in the other samples.
“Furthermore, there were no statistical differences in taste and general preference between all sauces,” researchers continued. “The addition of xanthan was noticed by the consumer as an increased firmness, although this effect did not necessarily imply that the product was less tasty.”
Coinciding with the trend of gender marketing food products, one new sauce claims to be “the manliest condiment . . . ever.” Mansauce, from the company of the same name, is made with jalapenos and banana peppers—“stuff that’s typically associated with men,” explains company partner Chris Galvin. Though the product does have female fans, its customer base consists largely of men, Galvin asserts, remarking that the product originated as an alternative to all of the “BBQ”-style sauces on the market.

At-home Cooking

“One in four of those who cook at least half of their meals at home, and use store-bought sauces, feel that purity claims, like natural or no additives and preservatives, are important when shopping for sauces and marinades,” explains David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel. “Marketers are meeting this need by introducing new products using these claims, and/or reformulating existing products.” Purity claims (as well as kosher positioning) held the top-three-ranking claims for cooking sauces and marinades during the 2006-2010 timeframe, according to Mintel GNPD. Within the five segments of the cooking sauces and marinades category, dry sauces and other wet sauces each have just over 26% market share, per Mintel. These are followed by the 19% garnered by ethnic sauces, 18% for barbecue sauces and 10% for refrigerated/frozen sauces.

Marinades could deliver more than simply flavor, however. In fact, according to a study from Portugal2, one form of marinade may offer significant health benefits: Marinating beef in a green tea-containing product may reduce the levels of potential cancer-promoting compounds.
Researchers at the University of Porto found the green tea-based marinade reduced levels of heterocyclic amines by up to 75%. Heterocyclic amines, formed during the frying or grilling of fish and meat, reportedly promote carcinogenesis in humans.
Writing in Food Chemistry, the researchers explained, “Since the catechins are natural products present in green tea consumed worldwide without any human disease risk, this procedure might well be introduced in the future in the cooking of meat practices, especially for children and consumers that do not use alcoholic marinades, owing to medical requirements, food allergies or religious practices.”
The researchers, led by Isabel Ferreira, took 10 beef samples and marinated them in a green tea solution for zero, one, two, four or six hours at 5˚C, followed by frying.

The data showed all the meat samples marinated in red wine or beer contained lower levels of heterocyclic amines than the control samples. For that matter, carcinogenic compounds, such as 2-amino-1-methyl-6-phenylimidazo[4,5-b]pyridine, were reduced by up to 75%, after marinating for six hours.
Ferreira and her colleagues recruited 27 people for a taste panel and fed them pan-fried steak (control) or green tea-marinated steaks. The marinade duration was limited to two hours, as a longer marinating duration reportedly produced detrimental effects on odor, color and overall quality. The researchers found no significant difference between the odor, color and overall quality of steaks marinated in tea vs. the control, non-marinated steaks.
One ingredient supplier in its annual “forecast of flavors to watch” cited various types of traditional fruit, which could be used to create new flavor sensations when paired with freshly cooked foods. The blueberry, for instance, could add a novel take on marinades and sauces.
The future of the category seems largely dependent on economic recovery. As Browne noted, “With more people staying in and preparing meals at home, we were not surprised to see this category increase. However, this sector may see some challenges in the next few years, with people starting to eat out more; higher ingredient prices deterring purchases; and easy-to-prepare convenience foods, like frozen entrées and pre-seasoned meats, increasing in the marketplace.”  pf

1. Dewettinck K, et al. “Effects of non-starch hydrocolloids on the physicochemical properties and stability of a commercial bechamel sauce.” Journal of Food Engineering: published online ahead of print: 10.1016/j.jfoodeng.2010.02.005

2. I.M.P.L.V.O. Ferreira, I, et al. “Effect of green tea marinades on the formation of heterocyclic aromatic amines and sensory quality of pan-fried beef.” Food Chemistry: published online ahead of print: 10.1016/j.foodchem