Amazon Fresh condiments

Dips, Sauces & Condiments: Spice It Up

Retailers and suppliers are continuing to craft new and unique flavor profiles to meet consumers' evolving needs.
Zachary Russell
Associate Editor
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Two trends born out of the COVID-19 pandemic that continue to impact how retailers aim to connect with consumers are snacking and home cooking, and both are having a positive impact on the dips, sauces and condiments category.

As reported in the April/June issue of Store Brands, research shows that 49% of consumers are snacking at least three times per day, an increase of 4% over the past two years, and more consumers are opting for private brands to offset the higher prices of national brand snacks.

To no surprise, home cooking interest exploded in the spring of 2020, and continues to be fueled by social media trends and recipes. According to a 2022 survey from Taste of Home, 60% of respondents said they cook at home five or more times per week, while 81% of respondents said they enjoyed cooking at home more now than before the pandemic.

Today, whether making sandwiches for lunch, pasta for dinner or snacks between meals, consumers are looking for new ways to spice up food and make the cooking process tastier and more convenient.

Amazon Fresh recently detailed the summer shopping habits of its customers in its first-ever Cart Report. While traditional condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup and mustard were popular among shoppers, the grocer’s private label hummus, salsa and queso also saw sales increase. Garlic, roasted red pepper, jalapeño and classic hummus varieties, chunky tomato salsa, tomato sauce and chili hot sauce were among the most popular dips and sauces.

Amazon Fresh hummus
Dips such as hummus have seen increased sales at Amazon Fresh locations.
Amazon Fresh hummus
Dips such as hummus have seen increased sales at Amazon Fresh locations.

Melodie Beal, head of Culinary Development at Amazon Fresh, said the retailer begins its product development process by researching what dips, sauces and condiments people are eating and figuring out how those dishes or flavors can be placed within the company’s product menu.

“We think about how we can create a unique experience for the customer and have several ‘cuttings’, which is where we taste all of the chefs’ creations,” said Beal. “Once we have the perfect recipe, our private brands team works to figure out how we can make that recipe at scale and what the packaging of the food item will look like for our customers on shelves. Once it hits shelves, we’re constantly refining and evolving our menu based on customer feedback, industry trends and hearing what our customers are looking for in a product.”

At discount retailer Save A Lot, customers have shifted toward private label as inflation remained very high for the past year, despite some recent cooling. The grocer says it has seen private label sales of core condiments such as mayonnaise rise 35% year-over-year. While staple items are performing well, Alicia Cook, category director of Center Store at Save A Lot, said the retailer is always looking for ways to expand the collection.

“While we keep our core everyday flavor profiles set fairly consistent with only the top selling flavors per item, we like to add variety to our total assortment through limited time offerings in weekly ads and seasonal programs,” said Cook. “We have been successful in being able to offer additional flavor profiles through these programs and continue to see growth in bold flavors, particularly within ranch dressings, BBQ sauces and marinades. We’re also exploring other new items, including the launch of a private label chicken dipping sauce later this year. We continue to see this category grow and have tested this item in private label previously as an in-and-out rotational item.”

During the summer months, as shoppers look for bargains on products for vacations, road trips and barbecues, Save A Lot makes sure its private label condiments are front-and-center, with stores cross-promoting items through in-store displays, with a focus on merchandising condiments in the meat section.

“We have a strong fresh meat program, cut fresh daily in every store, and take advantage of the traffic through that department to build customer basket size through cross-merchandising,” Cook said. “Specifically, during the summer months, we also focus on pre-built pallet displays for key condiment items in store to make it easy for operators to build displays with the least amount of labor possible. Occasionally our private label items feature recipes on the packaging and we use that opportunity to cross-promote other items throughout the store by incorporating our private label items in those recipes.”

As retailers take steps to meet the ever-evolving needs of their shoppers, product suppliers are also working to develop unique flavor profiles to help consumers enhance their home cooking experience.

“People who love good food, but who have no time to cook... they have sophisticated palettes, but they want to make things easy,” said Nancy Wekselbaum, owner of The Gracious Gourmet, a Connecticut-based company that offers a variety of savory tapenades, spreads and pestos, as well as sweet jams, jellies and fruit spreads.

She cited products such as sun dried tomato pesto with Calabrian chili peppers, Hatch Chile pesto and the company’s various fruit spreads as Gracious Gourmet items that bring unique flavors to everyday meals. The company works with retailers of all sizes to bring new private label items to shelves.

Wekselbaum said that her love of food and cooking at a young age is what drives her when creating new products.

The Gracious Gourmet parmesan artichoke tapenade
One of The Gracious Gourmet's tapenades, Artichoke Parmesan.
The Gracious Gourmet parmesan artichoke tapenade
One of The Gracious Gourmet's tapenades, Artichoke Parmesan.

“Since I was nine years old, I have been interested in cooking,” she said. “I believe that when you start with super high quality ingredients, you end up with a very, very high-quality product. An example of that is our lemon artichoke pesto and our artichoke Parmesan tapenade. We do not use artichoke quarters or pieces with the leaves on them. I only use the artichoke bottom. So the end result is a much more refined product.”

In addition to coming up with unique flavor pairs for the company’s dips, sauces and condiments, Wekselbaum said that catering to certain flavor trends is important when creating new items, while still offering something for all consumers.

“I think the younger consumers are looking for spicier products these days,” she said. “Using different chili peppers, spices and herbs [in products]...I think the spicy trend is definitely here. Even though spicy food is a trend, there are certain people who love it and there are people who don’t like spice. We are trying to introduce products to have a little ‘shadow of spice’ because I think that adds an interest that is trending in the market and I don’t think that’s going to go away anytime soon.”

At Casa Visco, a New York-based manufacturer of private label pasta and pizza sauces, innovation plays a key role in product development. Despite some production challenges due to drought-impacted tomato growing conditions in California, the company looks for new ways to spice up the category, which is often dominated by traditional marinara offerings.

home cooking
Increased home cooking has led to greater opportunity for private label dips, sauces and condiments.
home cooking
Increased home cooking has led to greater opportunity for private label dips, sauces and condiments.

“I’m very connected to our local and regional food system,” said Adine Viscusi, president of Casa Visco. “We did a garden vegetable sauce that’s got 12 fresh vegetables in it, it’s almost like a vegetable stew.”

Another sauce, Global Spice, features Asian spices, bringing non-traditional flavors to the pasta sauce category, which allows retailers to stand out from the pack with their private label collections.

“We put in Korean chili powder and sriracha and soy sauce. It’s really just fra diavolo, but if you like sriracha, you can tease out that flavor,” said Viscusi. “Soy sauce gives a nice umami blend, and then that Korean chili powder hits your taste buds differently than a red crushed chili or a red pepper flake. It’s a heat that kind of builds. We’re always trying to come up with new and unique sauces that differentiate us. We’re a little bit ahead of our time, and it’s really hard to be innovative and unique when you’re a small- to medium-sized manufacturer.”

Viscusi added that with many Americans continuing to cook most of their meals at home, Casa Visco is well-positioned to help retailers meet the needs of their customers while bringing new flavors to the sauce aisle.

“Once people start cooking at home and realize it can save money, you can control what you’re eating and what you’re feeding your family, I think there’s a real continuing look for that kind of comfort and ease,” she said.

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