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Far from being an afterthought or simply something to dip chips in, condiments are currently experiencing a renaissance, especially in the fine food world.
As Rick Sheepshanks, founder of Stokes Sauces, explains, “We have always believed condiments are more than a dollop, spoon or squeeze on the side of the plate. Consumers are encouraged to add depth to gravy, richness to casseroles; to include, stir and a whisk to make ordinary food extraordinary on the plate.”
This is something Maria Whitehead, director of Hawkshead Relish, strongly believes. “Condiments are there to enhance the dining experience and not to take over the main event, so they should be paired to add layers of flavour to a dish or meal and elevate the experience.
“Sauces, in particular, have really come to the forefront in the last few years. They’re so easy to use, and versatile. Adding a touch of our Spiced Mango Ketchup, for example, to a curry makes a world of difference, bringing extra layers of complexity and zing.”
One dedicated advocate of the importance of condiments is Laura Roberts, owner of Laura’s Larder in Orpington. “They make up about 90% of my fridge and shelf space at home, much to the annoyance of members of my household who are constantly trying to find space for fruit or yoghurt or cereal, but they really do make a meal sing,” she tells Speciality Food. “They are also perfect for the time poor and the snacker, guilty of it all.”
With sustainability a huge consideration for consumers, condiments are the perfect stock to uplift meals and help prevent food waste, while often being sustainable themselves.
As Athena Lee, marketing manager at ShelfNow, explains, “One of the most effective ways to reduce food waste is by using up the ingredients we already have. By incorporating condiments, we can revive and repurpose leftovers, creating entirely new and exciting flavours. Condiments can transform fridge leftovers into a delicious reinvention, ensuring that no food goes to waste.”
With cost-conscious consumers looking for ways to make their money go further, condiments are certainly must-stocks for fine food retailers.
According to Becky Vale, marketing director at Tracklements, “Condiments are by their very nature heroes of reducing food waste as their heritage lies in preserving the glut of the seasons. This is a tradition Tracklements is keen to continue and one of the reasons we make our ever-popular special editions, our Aromatic Medlar Jelly and our English Crabapple Jelly.
“More than that, condiments are the secret weapon of the larder, combatting waste wherever they’re found by generously transforming simple dishes into sumptuous feasts and adding a swell of intense flavour to everything they accompany. They are the vivacious and big-hearted guest at the table, as at home on the side of a plate of cold meats or cheese as they are adding depth to a stew.”
Another brand that believes this is Hawkshead Relish. “There are so many more uses for condiments, that we wrote a book called Embellish with Relish, packed with recipes which use our condiments as ingredients. It can be as simple as coating a salmon steak with Black Garlic Ketchup and rolling in sesame seeds, before roasting in the oven for a quick, simple and very tasty midweek supper.”
While traditional British favourites continue to dominate sales according to ShelfNow, ever since the pandemic changed the way consumers could explore different cuisines, international flavours have seen a boom.
“There has been an evident surge in the popularity of global flavours,” Athena explains. “Our data reveals that Indian and Italian-inspired condiments have captured a significant portion of the market, accounting for around 50% of all condiment sales. Additionally, the demand for East Asian flavours has experienced remarkable growth in the past two years.”
As Becky says, “There’s a real sense of exploration with food at the moment, driven by social media and the need for adventure. We’re seeing a willingness to experiment and try different combinations, although this takes the form of people combining known flavours themselves rather than necessarily wanting to be presented with obscure flavours.
“In condiments particularly, it’s more about using established products in new and different ways rather than adopting unfamiliar new flavours.”
One fine food retailer who has certainly experienced this desire to experiment is Laura’s Larder. “In store we’ve seen a real boost in international flavours with globally inspired condiments, sauces, oils, and seasonings bringing life to everyday meals,” Laura tells Speciality Food.
“We’ve been enjoying a wave of texture and flavour offering complex blends of herbs, spice, speciality chillies, fruit, nuts, seeds and punches of umami. Think Japanese crispy chilli oil, Mexican salsa macha, West African shito sauce, Spanish romesco, Indian achaar, Filipino adobo and more.”
One key way to encourage hesitant customers to steer away from their classic mayo or pesto sauces is to use exciting combinations on your in-store menu. As Laura explains, “We’ve been pimping our sandwiches at least once a week — taking inspiration from the Chinese rou jia mo, the Argentine choripán, and the South Asian paratha in our daily specials, really helping to showcase the products we sell. We find leaving one by the till with a ‘try me in today’s special’ sign really helps to boost sales.”
Tying into the ‘Swicy’ trend that marries sweet and spicy flavours, hot sauces are certainly enjoying a moment. Indeed, research from Tracklements revealed that 53% of shoppers are buying hot sauces at least every three months.
Laura Roberts agrees, “The spicy trend certainly isn’t going anywhere, is it? Considering all the pressures of daily life and knowing that spicy products can give you a quick release from stress with dopamine – then perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Everyone loves a hot sauce!”
What makes the trend so significant is that it ties in well with the desire for international flavours. As Laura explains, “Some brands seem to have just nailed both the ‘hot’ and ‘international’ trends. We, and many others, love Bombom’s full range; the Gochujang, Kimchi Mayo and Ssamjang are wonderful to dip, dunk and marinate. And if you haven’t seen Conbini’s gorgeous-looking Japanese inspired sauces then check them out.”
Athena Lee, marketing manager at digital wholesaler ShelfNow, shares three best-selling sauces that hit the trends for fine food retailers.
• Pico Sauces Punjabi Ketchup: Pico Sauces offers a range of hot sauces, chutneys, and ketchup that perfectly capture the authentic flavours of Modern India. British customers are captivated by these condiments, as they deliver a unique and delightful taste experience. The thoughtfully packaged products beautifully showcase the vibrant and diverse flavours of Indian cuisine, allowing customers to explore and incorporate exciting tastes into their meals.
• 2 Fingers Chunky Tartare Sauce: The condiments from the 2 Fingers range have gained significant popularity, thanks to their artisanal approach and global flavour inspiration. Crafted in small batches in West London, these chunky sauces are created with free-range egg mayonnaise, fresh herbs, and absolutely no artificial sweeteners, colours, or flavours.
• Longbottom & Co. Hot Sauce: This exceptional hot sauce is tomato and pepper-based, infused with ingredients like scotch bonnet chillies, red pepper, and tomatoes. The use of high-quality ingredients in this hot sauce enhance its versatility and ability to elevate a variety of dishes. The subtle umami undertones add an extra layer of depth and flavour, making it one of the most popular choices for those seeking a spicy and flavourful condiment.