The popularity of sandwiches during the COVID-19 pandemic was one of the few bright spots for supermarket delis in 2020, and that gave rise to a growing number of new condiment flavors.
Tom Orlando, national sales director for Conroy Foods, headquartered in Pittsburgh, PA, notes the consumer is being inundated by so many line extensions within the condiment category. With a wide variety of new items from Fortune 500 companies trying to capture new consumers, they experiment with combining some of their existing products or positioning minor flavor profile changes as a line extension.
“I still believe, and our sales support this belief, that consumers still want good-tasting, value- positioned products with positive ingredient attributes that can be enjoyed by the whole family,” he says. “Under the current pandemic and with an increased focus on how products can be shared safely within groups of people or extended family members, I think you will continue to see product development evolve with ‘no-touch’ application features. The days of passing around an open container and everyone using their own flatware to dispense the product are coming to an end.”
Silver Spring Foods, headquartered in Eau Claire, WI, has adapted a new tagline for its horseradish sauces and mustards this past year: “Give it zing with Silver Spring.”
“Everything we make, we want to make food taste better, and the frame of a condiment is to do just that,” says Eric Rygg, president of Silver Spring Foods. “We’ve tried to make life more interesting with the variety of condiments we bring to market, and we’ve seen an uptick in demand in horseradish, even prior to Covid.”
One of the things the company has done to attract consumers interested in hot and spicy foods is they have developed a heat index that launches later in 2021 that will let people know the heat level of the different horseradish products.
“Our heat is a little different than a pepper heat; our sensation is like a roller coaster— there’s a thrill and a heat but then it dissipates quickly,” says Rygg.
Versatility is another trend he’s noticed in the condiment category as he’s seen more blending of condiments and trying it on different sandwiches.
Trusted by Nestlé, PepsiCo, Givaudan, Campbell’s, General Mills, Dole and more, Tastewise, founded by former Google executive, Alon Chen, and former tech leader at SimilarWeb, Eyan Gaon, is an AI-powered food intelligence solution, which offers realtime industry insights on how consumers order, cook and eat.
The solution predicts changing consumer needs based on more than 880,000 restaurants and delivery menus, 22 billion social interactions and 3.8 million home recipes.
Miriam Aniel, head of content and research at Tastewise, says when it comes to condiments, consumers are seeking diverse flavors to fight against kitchen boredom.
“Ingredients found in Eastern cuisines are trending up,” she says. “Gochujang is on the rise, increasing in interest 56% year-over-year. The popular hot pepper paste has gochugaru, a Korean gateway chili with versatile applications that is also up 155% year-over-year in interest at home.”
Another popular condiment, she notes, is chutney, with excellent use-case combination for vegan and healthy motivations.
“Interest in immunity-boosting applications for condiments is up 17% month-over-month on average, and a top-rising motivation for chutney consumption is stress relief, a health demand intimately tied to immunity and general wellness,” Aniel says. “Indian cuisine has the second-highest share of all cuisines for immunity applications, priming chutneys for mainstream popularity.”
Tastewise’s recent data also showed coriander, mint and tamarind chutneys are up 100% in mainstream consumer interest, with green chutney (cilantro, mint, cumin, ginger) up 200%.
“Trending chutneys combine consumer interest in veganism and health, established and emerging taste profiles, and ingredients that hit the mark for specific consumer health demands,” Aniel says.
In early 2020, Hellmann’s introduced Drizzle Sauces, a series of five new sauces— Roasted Garlic, Creamy Bourbon BBQ, Cilantro Lime, Creamy Chili Honey and Roasted Red Pepper— that contain no high fructose corn syrup, no artificial flavoring, and are gluten and dairy free.
A spokesperson for London-based Unilever, Hellman’s parent company, shared that these sold extremely well as many consumers looked for new flavors to try on their sandwiches during their time quarantining.
Dustin Bridgewater, marketing manager of Curation Foods, Inc., headquartered in Santa Maria, CA, says its guacamole 2-ounce cups and 8- and 16-ounce tubs were popular but its new 12-ounce squeeze pouch sold better than anything.
“It has an airtight seal on the cap, which allows our guacamole to stay fresh up to 14 days,” he says. “It’s great for sandwiches, great for spreading, and you don’t need a knife or spoon that might mix with your own condiments.”
Plus, it stands up on the refrigerator door, just like staple condiments like mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup.
“We’re seeing a lot of people eating at home and who are more health conscious, so when people are making sandwiches, we are seeing more turn to our guacamole,” says Bridgewater. “We’ve seen consumption rise. You have to get creative when you’re eating at home every day, and this makes things super convenient regardless of whether it’s a sandwich for breakfast, lunch or dinner.”
During the pandemic, it seemed many consumers were also turning towards good old comfort foods.
“The basic staple of condiments like a good deli mustard, horseradish sauce and our original submarine dressing are the best products that have stood the test of time,” says Orlando. “To expand and capture an expanded consumer taste profile, we have line extensions such as Jalapeño and Pineapple Honey mustards from our original deli mustard.”
The company also offers a Balsamic Submarine Dressing and an Olive Oil Submarine Dressing—all packaged in shelf-ready packing in bottles that have a unique flip top applicator.
Additionally, Conroy Foods’ Cranberry Honey Mustard is a huge seasonal product paired with turkey sandwiches but Orlando notes deli operators are finding that consumers like this sauce year-round on their turkey sandwiches. The same can be said for the company’s Pineapple Honey Mustard and ham sandwiches.
“By offering the consumer a few more twists to the regular condiments (flavored mustards) to developing innovative unique flavors that are exclusive to their program, creates an innovative offering to differentiate their deli offerings from their competition,” says Orlando.
Although the company has been producing foodservice sizing on most of its retail line flavor profiles, Conroy Foods has added a customization offering to allow customers to be innovative and unique in their offerings to the consumer.
“For example, one of convenience store chain customers wanted to have a meatloaf sandwich limited time offer, and we made a Smokey Bacon Aioli sauce,” says Orlando. “One of the attributes we have is that we are able to produce fairly small batches and turn around flavor profiles quickly, and this allows our customer base to experiment with their offerings and create seasonal menu items.”
Marketing and Merchandising
Deli merchandising resonates meal ideas and overall pairings of items, which ignite the impulse purchase and allow the consumer to enjoy a new experience.
Conroy Foods recently developed a Deli Condiment Shipper Program, which features seasonal display cards to customize and capture the deli or seasonal theme that the retailer is targeting.
“We have six header cards depicting seasonal themes, and all of these headers are interchangeable on the shipper base,” says Orlando. “Depending upon the holiday or event, we have a themed header card and the product mix to match. For example, our summer sizzle shipper features four flavors that all have a little heat and add a little sizzle to your sandwich.”
During the early days of the pandemic, the company focused on customization and looked to provide what the retailer was looking for in an attractive, shelf-ready display that is easy to merchandise and allows flexibility in meeting demands caused by the pandemic.
“We also have permanent displays and various sizing of rack fixtures,” Orlando says. “This includes a floor rack that is positioned right next to the pre-cut grab-and-go lunchmeat fixture or a smaller deli countertop rack that consumers focus on as they wait for their lunchmeat order to be sliced.”
The number one complaint that Curation Foods has heard through the years is that avocados and guacamole brown too quickly, but now that problem is eliminated.
“Now, we are keeping it fresh longer and we are putting that in our marketing messaging,” says Bridgewater. “We provide shelf talkers to retailers, showing the squeeze pouch, the versatility of it and offer in-store signage. We also do direct-to-consumer coupon targeting and are heavy on social media, doing giveaways all the time. This is transforming the category.”
With strong marketing, sandwich sales are expected to continue being strong in 2021, and there’s plenty of exciting condiment flavors to keep the category fresh. DB