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The condiments category has experienced a shake-up in recent times, largely influenced by the sizeable powers at play elsewhere in the industry and beyond.
Covid certainly made an impact; consumers’ inability to travel led to them seeking out international flavours from within their storecupboard, while financial concerns and a desire to experiment – to do more with less – has led many to be more creative than ever when it comes to how and when condiments come into play with cooking.
Far from being simple flavour-boosters to have on-hand for barbecues and sandwiches, your condiments section deserves to be recognised as a veritable treasure trove of flavour. Maria Whitehead, director of Hawkshead Relish, agrees.
“They sit in our cupboards and in the fridge waiting for that piece of cheese or meat platter and before you know it they are out of date and binned, but actually, we need to think differently about these little jars of flavour, see what they contain and get creative in using them in our everyday cooking to add that layer of flavour.
“All of a sudden that tomato chutney is a great pasta sauce when added with some olives, capers, a splash of wine and a little fresh basil; or layer a great pickle in your homemade sausage roll for a picnic that already has the condiment in it ready to eat.
“It’s all about experimenting, having fun and making sure that you use the products in your cupboard and fridge.” Indeed, the Hawkshead Relish team created a book around the concept, Embellish with Relish, which contains a host of recipes with condiments at their heart.
Consumer experimentation is the name of the game at Tracklements too, as marketing director Becky Vale explains. “Tracklements are the secret weapons of the larder, transforming simple into sumptuous and adding a swell of intense flavour to everything they accompany,” she says.
“Our inventiveness in making them is matched only by consumers’ enthusiasm for using them: We’ve seen Sticky Fig Relish used as a topper for porridge, Fresh Chilli Jam enjoyed in donuts, and mustard transform eggy bread! Because they’re extraordinarily versatile, there are as many uses for Tracklements as there are meals in the world. We strongly believe that life is always a little less colourful without a perfectly balanced Tracklement.”
While the culinary opportunities that condiments provide are limitless, that’s not to say that their classic uses should be stepped over in place of innovative new formats. Mustards, horseradish and other traditional sauces are well worth shelf space in your store, and producers are ramping up the flavour to make sure that both adventurous and traditional cooks will be delighted.
“Stokes Classic English Mustard has a subtle twist to replace the usual punishing burn with a sauce that complements rather than competes with beef,” begins Rick Sheepshanks, founder of Stokes Sauces.
“Now, Stokes Cider & Horseradish Mustard is a twist on twists. Take wholegrain mustard bursting with intense yellow and black mustard seed textures and flavours, and balance that intensity with British dry cider and a gently lingering English horseradish finish. To dampen the fire in a ‘creamy’ horseradish sauce, add single cream and fine English horseradish. Is this a twist of simply good practice?”
The brand’s apple sauce also boasts a flavour-filled twist – British dry cider to lift the classic combination of rich and sweetened thick-cut apples - while they let fish and lamb “own the plate”, with whole eggs from British free-range hens and sweet garden mint in their tartare sauce and mint sauce allowing quality produce to shine.
Experiment with worldwide flavours
Ease and versatility is the name of the game when it comes to condiments, whatever their culinary origin, and every meal and snack offers an occasion to experiment. “Breakfast is booming,” begins Nick Minchin, marketing manager UK & Ireland at Santa Maria, “and it’s easier than you might think to raise your customers’ meal occasions to another level.
“Spices, sauces and condiments can be used to create a variety of flavours for any meal occasion. Added to butter, they make a flavoursome spice and herb butter, mixed with oil they create bespoke dressings and toppings, or to give dishes extra oomph, try drizzling with a glaze to give a traditional dish an instant flavourful facelift.”
According to Nick, Mexican cuisine is the number one flavour trend shaking up the condiment category. “15 million more Mexican lunchtime meals were consumed in the last six months of lockdown according to Onepoll,” says Nick. “Condiments and sauces are a key part of authentic Mexican cuisine, with salsa and guacamole synonymous with the region’s dishes.”
It’s not only Mexican dishes which are setting foodies’ tables alight in 2022. UK consumers are excited by chilli heat and hot sauces, as well as trending flavours which incorporate a bit of capsicum buzz such as Korean cuisine – with sticky Korean sauce-drizzled hot wings a particular favourite. Of course, Indian condiments have been a favourite for generations, with authentic and traditional options a mainstay of British cupboards – and exciting new-to-Brits options being released into the market.
During the pandemic, food and drink offered the opportunity for shoppers to travel through food, and Tracklements relishes the chance to provide customers with delicious culinary exploration. “Tracklements, and most especially the three special editions we launch each year, tap into consumers’ desire for food exploration, whether that’s exotic flavours from around the globe or homegrown combinations to fire up the tastebuds,” says Tracklements’ Becky.
“They allow you to taste the world from your kitchen, experiment and add your own flair and colour to a meal. Our latest, Coriander & Chilli Chutney, is a traditional Indian chutney, alive with hot spices and aromatic coriander which food lovers are using to pep up barbecued chicken and lamb kebabs as well as serve on the side of a curry.” However exciting the international flavours offered by a product, consumers are not willing to sacrifice quality, though.
“However exotic the flavour, consumers are still looking for a brand they can believe in,” explains Becky, “one which supports British farmers by using home grown ingredients as well as making great tasting products.”
The gift of the upsell
The condiments category offers a valuable upsell opportunity. Thanks to the kaleidoscope of flavours and functions available in the sector, they can be positioned almost anywhere within the store – in fact, it would likely be profitable to display options alongside corresponding product ranges as opposed to in a standalone section; for example, traditional Sunday roast condiments such as mint sauce and redcurrant jelly next the butchery counter.
Sharing serving suggestions and inspiration around making the most of condiments – so they don’t end up forgotten at the back of the fridge – is also a good way to go. Tracklements is proud to support retailers looking to offer adventurous flavours to discerning customers.
“We try to make upselling Tracklements as easy as possible by providing usage ideas and suggestions in the form of recipes and whether consumers follow these or not we hope they inspire and spark some culinary ideas of their own,” says Becky.