This April saw The Kraft Heinz Company, a leader in the condiment category, announce a partnership with Momofuku Restaurant Group, a New York City-based firm run by celebrity chef David Chang. 

More specifically, Kraft Heinz’s innovation accelerator group, Springboard, is producing and distributing Chang’s signature “Ssam Sauce,” a spicy, umami sauce found at many Momofuku restaurants. The sauce is made from miso, sake, rice vinegar and gochujang, the Korean paste. Kraft Heinz is launching three versions of the sauce: Original, Spicy, and Smoky. 

International sauces act as an important entry point for consumers into unfamiliar cuisines. Consumers can use sauces to enhance a familiar dish, such as pizza, with a more unfamiliar international flavor. 

According to Mintel’s Innovation on the Menu US 2017 report, 22% of consumers say they would be motivated to try a new flavor if it was served in a familiar dish. Restaurant name recognition also can motivate consumers to pick up an unfamiliar food while grocery shopping. In fact, 34% of consumers say they are interested in seeing restaurant-branded international foods at grocery stores, according to Mintel’s International Food Trends US 2018 report. 

The blockbuster success of Sriracha sent many manufacturers scrambling for the next big condiment. Gochujang hits many of the requirements for being the spiritual successor to Sriracha. Korean food, in general, is trending and gochujang has a unique taste that is more umami than spicy. However, traditional gochujang is more of a paste than a sauce, meaning it does not easily pour onto dishes. Also, it may be just unfamiliar enough to alienate the average consumer, suggesting that a more approachable sauce made with gochujang may be the real opportunity for success. 

Ssam Sauce makes gochujang accessible for the average consumer as it is a sauce rather than a paste and its name is more approachable. Kraft Heinz also will greatly benefit from Momofuku’s name recognition. Foodies likely will find the sauce appealing as they often search for new sauces and may be already familiar with Momofuku. Korean cuisine has been on the rise in the foodservice industry and consumers will increasingly want to incorporate Korean flavors in their home cooked meals. 

Additionally, the growing popularity of David Chang—thanks to his numerous television appearances and shows—likely will benefit the sauce and entice even non-foodies to give it a try. However, the product is likely out of the price point for the average consumer, indicating that gradual decreases in the price of the product will allow more consumers to give the gochujang-inspired Ssam Sauce a try.  

Originally appeared in the September, 2018 issue of Prepared Foods as The "Next Sriracha?"