The trend in condiments is for spice, as consumers seek out a global flavour with every meal. Anne Bruce reports
We're seeing an explosion in the hot sauce sector - call it the world-food influence, call it the Nando's effect, or maybe we are all getting hooked on capsaicinoids, the chemicals in chilli which give a "chilli-high."
Where the distinction of Tabasco versus flakes was once all anyone was expected to understand in terms of chilli, now different types of pepper sauces have their own cachet and there is a mushrooming of chilli sauce options, such as chipotle, piri piri, sriracha hot sauce or jalapeÁ±o chilli ketchup.
"Things are hotting up in the condiments market as people experiment with more varieties of chillies combined with tastes from different world regions," says Duncan Parsonage, Fresh Direct's head of food development. "It's now cool to think hot, so you really need to know your smoky chipotle from your mellow poblano or super-hot Dorset Naga if you want to keep up with the trends."
A growing interest in customising food at the table is fuelling condiment sales, and manufacturers are producing more table sauces to bespoke recipes and house special varieties that could end up on the supermarket shelves as well as in the restaurant, he says.
"Look out for the sriracha hot sauce that is currently topping everything from hot dogs to scrambled eggs. Cold-pressed virgin rapeseed oil and flavoured oils are also in vogue at the moment - many of them boasting British provenance tales."
Flagship Europe Korean barbecue sauce
Also on trend is baconnaise - bacon- flavoured mayonnaise - and bacon jam, for the hardcore carnivores.
Chefs are getting in on the act, brushing table sauces onto grilled meats or fish, and using them to marinate tofu, for example, before incorporating them into salads, wraps and toasties.
"With the public health move to reduce salt, condiments can bring a depth of flavour and a perception of saltiness that will bring a dish to life. Glazing and marinating mass-produced chicken is sometimes the only way of making it more interesting to the diner," he suggests.
In table-top sauces and condiments, "chilli and spice are still the hottest ticket," says Nigel Parkes, Flagship Europe's purchasing and marketing director. The heat may be delivered via cook-in sauces, dips and condiments, added to mayonnaise or be in table-top bottles such as Tabasco so that customers can customise their food, he says.
"This trend for customisation at the table encourages and enables those consumers who perhaps aren't brave enough to try a chilli-based centre plate sauce to broaden their horizons and they can select a mild option. Condiments are a great way of adding increased interest to a dish without the flavour dominating and becoming centre stage. They also allow the consumer to experiment with flavours and combinations."
As interest in chilli grows, some restaurant chains are even offering customers a 'chilli challenge' - daring them to climb up the Scoville scale, which measures the heat of chilli. Take London burger bar MEATliquor's Triple Chilli Challenge: 10 minutes to down a burger, hot dog and fries, all packed with chilli and jalapeÁ±os.
Brakes chilli jam
Stars and spice
All things Americana are in growth in casual dining, including barbecue, the hot sauces and American mustard, says Mark Irish, Brakes' head of food development.
"Spice and smoke have become hugely popular of late, and Asian-inspired flavours are fuelling demand for things such as sweet chilli, sriracha sauce and Korean-style flavours."
Many chefs are combining condiments to create new variations, mixing, for example, ranch dressing with sriracha, and there is increasing demand for standalone glazes, particularly in the barbecue arena.
"In terms of where the market is headed, it's hotter, spicier and sharper. Heat is popular, and there are no signs of a cooling off. Authenticity is likely to continue to be important, whether in delivering flavours from across the world or providing traditionally produced chutneys," he says.
Emma Warrington, senior food buyer at Beacon, says other new trends for 2016 include infused oils, such as roasted pumpkin seed oil, and variations on the classics like avocado oil mayonnaise or smoked onion marmalade.
Overall food trends this year include the use of theatrical cuts of meatand condiments that complement each dish on the menu.
Offering premium condiments on your menu allows you to upsell and increase revenue. "It's important to think of your condiments offering as more than just an accompaniment, but something that can truly enhance the overall eating experience," she says.
Chris Brown, channel marketing manager at one of Beacon's suppliers, Unilever Food Solutions, adds: "A broad range of quality condiments is vital to please everyone.
"Condiments are a crucial part of a dish and something consumers really care about. In past surveys we conducted, two-thirds of consumers agreed it's important that quality brands have been used."
Condiments are also a great way for restaurants to test what flavours are popular before introducing them on to the menu, says Rintaro Nishimura, brand manager at Mizkan. He believes that there is a huge opportunity for growth in the Japanese flavour category. The company recently launched a wasabi-style dressing and a sesame dressing for foodservice. He explains: "Something that is hugely appealing about Japanese flavours for food brands is its popularity with millennials."
Victoria Adams, brand manager for Branston, says that key trends in condiments include the popularity of world flavours, with consumers' tastes becoming more diverse than ever before.
"Sauces are an easy way for chefs to add a barbecue twist to their menu, and also provide a good way for diners to customise their meal," says Eimear Owens, country sales manager UK & Ireland at Santa Maria Foodservice.
A Santa Maria street-food report shows that people want to replicate flavours from their travels around the world with authentic food that packs a spicy punch. Barbecue flavours were a big hit with consumers last year and the trend looks set to continue as smokiness becomes more commonplace on menus.
Santa Maria has a World-To-Go range with 10 sauces, including piri piri, sweet chili, teriyaki, bourbon barbecue, Mexican hot, chipotle, Mexican salsa and diced jalapeÁ±o topping.
Pulled pork tortilla wrap with Santa Maria chipotle sauce
As hot chilli sauces proliferate and become this decade's ketchup, it is worth remembering that your chilli offer may mean a lot to your customers. Capsaicinoids, the chemicals which add the heat to chillies, cause a morphine-like, feel-good reaction, to the extent that "chilli-heads" may find it difficult to enjoy food without a hit of chilli.
So it's best to stock up on the hot sauces before anyone goes cold turkey. Chillis are also an excellent source of vitamins and minerals, and contain seven times more vitamin C than orange. There are definitely worse things to be addicted to.
The well-reviewed Rudie's Jamaican restaurant in Dalston, London, offers a menu inspired by traditional Jamaican cooking.
Matin Miah, co-founder, says that it serves jerk dishes with homemade sauces which have been a great hit with the customers. These include jerk ketchup (mild), banana sauce (medium), and papaya scotch bonnet sauce (hot), to cater for all spice-tolerance levels. One of the most popular is the spicy lime and coriander dip for seafood dishes.
He says: "The customer palate for exotic flavours and spices has grown vastly. At Rudie's we have not dumbed down any of the authentic and robust flavours or the spice levels that you get in Jamaican cooking, although the food is not super-spicy. Customers love us for that. We make all our condiments daily using the best fresh ingredients. The freshness and vibrancy of our sauces enhance our customers' dining experience so we place a lot of love, care and attention on producing these on our premises. It's labour-intensive and costly but it's worth it."
Due to customer demand, the Rudie's range of homemade sauces will also be sold in bottles at the restaurant from next month.
Fresh Direct Group
Santa Maria Foodservice
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