With stocks and sauces the backbone of most dishes, chefs and operators must pin down their offering and make intelligent choices when it comes to ready-made options. Anne Bruce reports
From jus to ketchup, syrups to dipping sauce, via balsamic glazes and pickles, sauces and stocks are the linchpin of a dish.
Operators can add value and pizazz to the menu with a well-placed tzatziki or pesto, making the meal more flavoursome and memorable and putting it on trend.
So, how do you get it right when it comes to sauces and stocks? Some questions to ask yourself are: what are the latest trends in global cuisines? Are you catering for the rising tide of vegetarianism? Do you offer allergen-free to appeal to the growing free-from market? Do your dishes appeal to consumers who want to make healthy choices? And are your options user-friendly for a busy kitchen?
A world of flavour
In stocks and sauces, variety really is the spice of life, suppliers report. Alison Smith, product developer at Mars Food Europe, says that the UK consumer’s desire to explore new flavours and different global cuisines is higher than ever.
“In recent years, we’ve seen UK chefs and diners alike surge further across the world map in search of the latest hot taste trends, venturing deeper into east-Asian cuisine,” she says. As a result, the market has seen a spike in demand for Asian sauces, because of the distinctively fragrant flavours often used in these kinds of cuisine.
“With food trends heading east at full speed, in 2019 we expect demand for Japanese food to grow, with flavours such as katsu curry widening their following,” Smith adds.
Mark Irish, head of food development at Brakes, agrees that east Asian flavours are set to continue their boom in popularity. “Asian sauces are seeing continued growth across the restaurant and high street arena. Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, Malaysian and Korean-inspired dishes are featuring more and more, with a corresponding increase in the number of outlets being set up to serve them.
“Consumers and chefs want aromatic and lighter flavoured sauces and stocks. We are now seeing the emergence of Asian products, such as miso, as a mainstream trend, while ingredients like fish sauce, soy sauce and oyster sauce are kitchen staples,” Irish says.
For caterers looking to introduce some global dishes into their menu, the best advice is to push for authentic dishes with a real sense of place, Ben Bartlett, chef and brand ambassador for Lion sauces recommends. As diners become savvier, caterers can capitalise by creating menus that zoom in on specific regional cuisines.
Korean food is one of the fastest-growing cuisines in the UK, with barbecue at its heart, and one easy way to replicate the flavours of Korea’s tabletop grills is with smoky, sweet and hot barbecue sauce. Traditional British, Italian, French and Mexican are also still core trends, but in recent years other South American cuisines have seen an increase, particularly Peruvian and Brazilian.
And Bartlett predicts that the next cuisine in the spotlight is Anatolian: “Turkish cuisine is set for a real boom, and it’s possible to create some recognisable, distinctive and delicious dishes quickly and easily, using ready-made sauces.” One example is Lion’s yogurt and mint dressing, which would work wonders alongside grilled kebabs or in salads.
A recent MCA report (2018) seems to concur with these predictions, with 92% of food industry leaders predicting that global cuisines will continue to grow faster than any other over the next five years, in particular Japanese, Middle Eastern and Korean food.
Indian cuisine also remains popular with diners in search of authentic regional dishes and ingredients. The rising demand has seen chefs move away from tikka or korma sauces in favour Bengali and Keralan curries. Authentic street food dishes are also popular, says Julia Cast, category manager at Bidfood.
Americana dishes are also a growing trend, with sauces such as chipotle mayonnaise, habanero, South Carolina barbecue and maple and bourbon glaze. Pulled meat is still really popular – and using ready-made sauces is the easiest way to produce numerous variations, each with a distinctive flavour profile.
This demand for a wider range of flavours can cause issues for chefs, not just from the point of view of sourcing the ingredients, but also from a time and storage perspective. But ready-made sauces allow operators to offer a wide variety of dishes and flavours, without the demands on time and knowledge.
“The right ready-made sauces are the easiest way for caterers to bring the authentic flavours of popular and emerging global cuisines into their menus. The same ingredients can be transformed into a world of different dishes,” says Bartlett.
With stocks and sauces, convenience is key, agrees Charlotte Ponti, savoury food manager at Nestlé Professional. “Stocks and sauces can add an exciting new element to a dish and, when applying this to global cuisines, the possibilities are truly endless. However, limited time and ever-changing seasonal menus are enough to put any chef under pressure, so finding alternatives to lengthy cooking processes can be of great value in a professional kitchen.”
With the option to utilise a pre-prepared sauce, caterers can use their time more effectively to perfect their existing menu and develop new flavour combinations, she says.
“By using bought-in high-quality stocks and sauces to develop dishes, chefs can offer plates consistently full of flavour. Using pastes and liquid seasonings allows chefs to give dishes depth of flavour without spending hours boiling down reductions and stocks.”
When using ready-made stocks and sauces, it’s important to consider the growing number of people who are following specialist diets, Bartlett says. Veganism and gluten-free diets are on the increase – and choosing sauces that you can use across the menu will make things much easier for everyone. It is vital that this rising demographic isn’t alienated. Lion sauces, for example, are suitable for vegetarians, non-GM and soya-free. Most are also gluten-free.
“At Bidfood we’re increasingly seeing gluten-free and vegetarian stocks and sauces being used on main menus, rather than being offered as the alternative option,” says Cast. “This consolidation enables chefs to optimise operating costs, reduce the risk of cross-contamination, as well as eliminate the need to prepare specific dishes for those with an allergy or intolerance. As a result, those with special dietary requirements have more options when eating out.”
But it is vital to highlight what you are doing on your menus, both from a sales point of view and to help guide those with intolerances or allergies. Short descriptions of healthy, authentic or slightly more unusual ingredients can elevate dishes and potentially improve margin, Irish recommends.
In addition, with healthier lifestyle trends, even when eating out, sauces that can offer lighter, or reduced salt and sugar options are likely to be popular. For chefs looking for a fresher option, the Saucy Affair Raw Sauce Co’s range of chilled raw sauces consist of herbs, fruit and veg, with no added salt or sugar, and are gluten and lactose free. They are made using high-pressure processing (HPP), and can be used cold as dips, dressings and condiments or as the base for a cooked dish.
The company is getting ready to launch from retail into the catering industry. Plastic 1L/2.4L bottles are currently available, and sachets will be launched in the next six months.
The old favourites
But even with food trends developing and moving fast, chefs should not abandon the traditional crowdpleasers, says Jenny Tran, brand manager at Branston. “While there are plenty of popular flavours coming to the UK from around the globe such as wasabi or sriracha, our latest research [Mizkan, Annual Sauces Survey 2017] has shown that consumers still prefer traditional sauces to accompany their food.”
The company’s annual sauces survey of 1,000 respondents revealed that 37% named ketchup as their number one sauce, closely followed by mayonnaise and barbecue.
Tran says: “In response to the research and ensuring we are listening to what consumers want, we have recently launched a range of sauces including tomato ketchup, brown sauce, salad cream and barbecue.”
Making the right choices when it comes to stocks and sauces will tie your dishes in to consumer trends, and that will help put your business on the gravy train.
Aimia Foods (Mars Food Europe)
The Saucy Affair Raw Sauce Co