Getting creative with summer dressings

26 May 2023, 08:14 AM
  • From the classic drizzle of EVOO or balsamic vinegar to a multi-faceted sauce or marinade, independent retailers should get creative and think outside the box in the salad dressings sector this summer
Getting creative with summer dressings

With alfresco dining, long evenings and Great British heatwaves on the way, now is the perfect time for independent retailers to refresh their stock of oils, vinegars and dressings.

But with today’s consumers looking for something more than a drizzle on top of their summer salads, how can indies offer a successful selection?

Catering to demand
It will come as a surprise to very few that great quality oils, vinegars and dressings are not only a must-stock essential for customers’ cupboards, but for independent retailers of fine food, too.

While these store cupboard staples are available all year round, Laura Roberts, owner of Laura’s Larder in Orpington, says it is during summer that they really fly off the shelf.

“It’s funny really, there are months when we rarely restock the salad dressings and then one day the shelf is empty and you think, ‘right – salad season is here’. But we are really led by consumer purchasing for when this starts.

“We then move them from the high-up shelf to eye level, expand the range and the restocking continues frequently throughout the summer. Simultaneously, the kitchen sees an increase in people ordering salads over sandwiches or toasties and we increase the range there too,” she explains.

When it comes to what is popular, consumers are thinking outside the box in 2023 and looking past fancy packaging at the product itself. Indeed, as Simona Deifta, founder of London-based dressings brand Nojo, tells Speciality Food, “Independent fine food retailers can cater to consumer demand by offering versatile and high-quality dressings and sauces that appeal to a range of tastes and dietary requirements.

“In the UK, there is a growing consumer trend for plant-based offerings (up 37% in the last two years), and 71% of consumers are now looking for foods with sustainability credentials (Mintel). As consumer trends shift towards healthier and more sustainable options, offering products with clean deck ingredients and sustainability credentials can provide a point of differentiation.”

Going global
While the classic EVOO and balsamic vinegar will always be strong performers, consumers are certainly interested in more global flavours and expanding their horizons beyond the salad.

According to Giles Henschel, co-founder of Olives et Al, “The market has seen a clear trend towards more versatile products in diverse flavours to allow consumers to be not just more experimental in their kitchens at home but also be able to use a product more widely and frequently so as to get the best value, which is even more important in the current economic climate.”

Indeed, with the cost-of-living crisis affecting the way the public shop for and consume food, retailers need to offer something that is an all-rounder.

Giles adds, “Our dressings are not just dressings but also can be used as marinades for meat and fish; mixed with yoghurt or mayonnaise to make dips and sauces; a drizzle to decorate a finished dish or even in place of a coulis on a dessert.” This, he explains, is how they cater to demand and meet the needs of consumers and trade customers including chefs and food service operations.

To highlight their versatility and show consumers their potential beyond the obvious, Giles encourages independent retailers to build a range of at least three products — say, a classic style, a spicy, and a more left-field option, perhaps with a multi-buy offer to encourage trial.

Like Olives et Al, Nojo also caters to more global and creative taste buds. As founder Simona tells Speciality Food, “There is a shift away from traditional dressings such as French dressing, towards more innovative and unique flavours driven by social media trends.

“For example, search volumes for ‘Yuzu Sauce’ have increased by 65% year on year, according to Google Trends. Nojo’s range of versatile and clean ingredient dressings caters to these key trends, offering innovative flavours that pair well with a range of dishes beyond salads.”

Getting creative
Laura has found being creative in the kitchen a surefire way to spice up summer sales. “To try to sell dressings for more than the summer period it’s about new and interesting flavours such as yuzu, poke, tahini, etc. and using them in more than your ‘traditional’ salads – roasted vegetables, marinades, pulses, pasta, noodles, rice – push people to think beyond the classic salad,” she tells Speciality Food.

Indeed, foodies want sauces for more than just salad leaves. “Consumers are using dressings and sauces in a variety of dishes beyond the traditional salad, such as marinades, dips, and sauces for meats and vegetables. For example, the search volume for ‘sauce for roasted vegetables’ has increased by 44% YoY according to Google Trends,” Simona adds.

In order to communicate the versatile use of such staples, Laura likes to experiment in her own kitchen. “We make daily specials and promote them with a reel on Instagram and Facebook and they are basic recipes that showcase the products used from the shop. Partnering with suppliers to offer tastings in-store is very important too.

“The continual showcasing of recipe suggestions whether in social, in-store with sampling and promotions or just chatting to customers, is key. As curators of the shop, we do introduce great products so generally when people try, they buy,” she explains.

Of course, as Giles adds, “Inspiration is key, with recipe ideas either on-pack, on cards in-store, or featured recipe content on social media being hugely powerful to get consumers out of their comfort zones and trying more exotic products from fine food specialist retailers, rather than the standard products for uninspiring salads found in many of the larger retailers.”

When using social media, Simona stresses the importance of paying attention to viral food trends, such as the infamous Feta Pasta or Salmon Rice Bowl. “Indies can promote the use of these products by offering recipe ideas and highlighting the versatility of the products on social media and in-store displays, with a focus on popular social media trends.

“Social media trends are particularly influential in shaping consumer tastes, with views of #foodporn increasing by 82% YoY on TikTok, according to research from WARC,” she adds.

This summer, get creative in your deli counters, cafés and kitchens and you’ll be on track for a successful season of salads and so much more.

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