People can be surprisingly passionate about condiments. Just ask whether they prefer mayonnaise or Miracle Whip. Or if they drench pizza in ranch. Or about the "best" regional BBQ sauce style. And don't even suggest putting ketchup on a Chicagoian’s hot dog.
The sauce landscape is constantly changing, with global flavors like sriracha and gochujang disrupting the category and new versions of ketchups, mustards, hot sauces, BBQ sauces, jams and jellies, and pasta sauces released all the time (have you seen the condiment or dressing aisle at your local supermarket lately?). Luckily there are a near-endless number of applications for sauces, with new uses popping up constantly (if you think ranch dressing on pizza is unique, talk to the consumer who told us they add it to spaghetti).
Turn up the heat
The saying, “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,’ rings true as operators are purchasing more spicy products. While 7% of operators say they are purchasing less sriracha, new formats could keep this spicy sauce exciting as it moves through the Menu Adoption Cycle.
Unfortunately, operators have a lot of frustrations with condiments, sauces, and dressings. From packaging and waste to cleanliness and safety, there’s a lot to gripe over. In fact, one operator notes, “Giving away $90 worth of hot sauce per week hurts.” Overall, 40% of operators are still purchasing more sriracha. Other condiments on the rise include buffalo sauce, hot sauce, cheese sauce (who doesn’t love nachos?), and salsa.
Can you take the heat? While 16% of consumers say “the spicier the better,” 18% don’t want food to be spicy at all.
No catching up with ketchup
Not only is ketchup America’s favorite condiment, but it continues to grow, up 76% on menus in the past decade. However, it’s important to note that burger and fry descriptions have become more detailed, meaning menus aren’t necessarily using more ketchup, they just didn’t use to specifically call it out
Who’s dipping what?
We’re all aware of regional divides on condiment preferences. (Have you ever tried taking ranch away from a Midwesterner?) Unsurprisingly, age also impacts what bottle consumers are reaching for. Gen Z is on the more adventurous side, favoring buffalo sauce, gochujang, and eel sauce. Millennials are dipping in Thai chili sauce, vodka sauce, and peanut sauce. Gen X keeps it more lowkey, preferring dijon mustard, tartar sauce, and Italian dressing. Boomers also stick with familiar flavors like brown mustard, mayonnaise, and ranch.
Despite their ubiquity, there are still numerous unmet operator needs for condiments, sauces, and dressings, from packaging to ingredients to prep methods. It's also a category where branding matters. Both consumers and operators often have strong brand preferences, and it's one of the few foodservice ingredients where the brand may be immediately evident to the consumer, either on the table or in a branded packet.