Prepared Foods talks sauce trends with Chef Joel Minkoff, corporate manager of culinary research and development for Chelten House Products, a private label and foodservice processor in Bridgeport, N.J.

Prepared Foods: Chelten House won 2015 “Sauce of the Year” from the Association for Dressings and Sauces. What was your winning product?

Chef Joel: The Organic Garlic Sriracha BBQ sauce actually started as two separate sauces: a traditional Sriracha and a custom Garlic BBQ sauce. The challenge was combining these two formulas into one product. Finding the right balance of spicy Sriracha heat and sweet and smoky BBQ made this combination a real hit.

PF: What were last year’s sauce trends?

Chef Joel: A: The trend to create authentic ethnic flavors in sauces has continued to gain strength. The popular ethnic trends we see consistently popping up include the flavors of the Far East. In Thailand, you find ingredients such as galangal, lemon grass and red chilies. Meanwhile, Korea has fermented flavors of miso, spicy red pepper flakes and salty dried anchovy.

Also on the rise are dishes and ingredients from the Middle East. Ingredients like Aleppo peppers, Zatar spice and sumac spice are trending.

The sauce trends we watch actually start at the restaurant level. As ethnic restaurants become mainstream and chefs continue to explore ethnic dishes and ingredients the world grows smaller. Consumers understanding and appreciation of these foods and ingredients becomes more familiar and appreciated. We strive to capitalize on this appreciation in all of our product development efforts.

PF: How do you see sauce trends evolving this year and next?

Chef Joel: That is a great question. Everyone wishes they knew what the next Sriracha or Raspberry Vinaigrette will be. I think the trend of spicy—from a variety of chili peppers from around the world—will continue; and the combination of spicy with sweet will continue to evolve. Grilling continues to rise in popularity so I can imagine more marinades with authentic flavors that combine sweet, spicy and salty. We’re talking about ingredients that drive umami and flavor with the grilling technique.

We also see pasta sauces going upscale with more expensive ingredients such as upscale cheeses, exotic mushrooms and outside the box inclusions like Truffle and Balsamic. We also see the use of imported Italian Tomatoes on the rise creating a more premium tier for private label tomato sauces.

Next year I think we will see older, established flavors striving to make a comeback. As savvy product developers clean up the ingredient decks and modernize the flavors of ethnic sauces from Mexico, China and India, I think we will see a re-emergence of these ethnic sauces.

PF: How has sauce formulation most changed during the past five to 10 years?

Chef Joel: The over-arching trend with Chelten House private label customers is the requirement to develop clean label formulations. This is our biggest challenge, opportunity and capability. This has continued to expand into using more Non-GMO verified ingredients. Many retailers also ask us to flip those formulas into 100% organic versions.

All of these platforms have their individual challenges. Today, it takes a dedicated team to take our culinary concepts from ideation through formulation, sourcing, creation, and manufacturing to overcome these hurdles.

PF: How do you attract a retail consumer’s attention?

Chef Joel: I think the key for us is a close partnership with the private label buyers and the product developers. Understanding the needs of a retailer’s specific consumers allows us to develop products that consistently meet and exceed consumer demands. That is what they want in a new sauce. We represent ourselves as the “brand ambassador” for all the new products that we develop and take that responsibility very seriously.

PF: What’s one of your favorite new sauces this year?

Chef Joel: Wow! We have such a robust platform for new product development and innovation that it is very hard to pick just one. Building on the success of last years “sauce of the year,” we have a few BBQ sauces that really stand out. We have a new BBQ sauce that combines Bacon and Moonshine that is both versatile and delicious.