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Ketchup with the latest condiment trends

While the majority of condiment, sauce and dressing usage skews towards home (consumers are twice as likely to utilize them at home versus away from home), it’s when dining out that consumers are generally exposed to and experiment with new flavors.

5 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice



In a jam? If it’s sauce innovation that’s got you in a pickle, we’ve got you covered with Datassential’s new Condiments, Sauces, and Dressings Keynote Report. In our report featuring insights from more than 300 operators and more than 1,000 consumers, we’ll be adressing everything you could ever wonder about these saucy sidekicks. We’re laying it on thick with consumer and operator sentiments, consumption frequencies for top sauces such as buffalo and alfredo, currently trending condiments like kewpie mayo and jalapeno ranch, as well as a look into the future of what’s to come in the category.

Usage and applications

While the majority of condiment, sauce and dressing usage skews towards home (consumers are twice as likely to utilize them at home versus away from home), it’s when dining out that consumers are generally exposed to and experiment with new flavors. Just as one size doesn’t fit all, one sauce doesn’t fit all demographics. In the broadest sense, men prefer spicy and women favor savory, but it is the younger consumers driving the shift towards new and exciting flavors outside of the typical vinaigrette and marinara.

Millennial and gen Z consumers tend to gravitate towards flavors that just a few years ago would be found exclusively at ethnic grocers or trendy food trucks, but now these demographics are indexing high with trendy sauces such as salsa roja and Thai chili. Likewise, operators are keen and eager to purchase condiments, sauces, and dressings that satisfy these shifting consumer expectations with 68% being more inclined to purchase sauces with an innovative flavor, underscoring that they are well poised to meet the increasing consumer demand.

How we use our sauces is also evolving into more atypical applications; think tzatziki with french fries, soy sauce in chili, ranch dressing with pizza and any other combination of flavors you can imagine. Operators have an opportunity to innovate their menus simply by experimenting with new and unusual amalgamations of flavors they already offer. And who knows, perhaps a combination of maple syrup and vinaigrette would be incredible. Additionally, just over half of all consumers are eager for innovative condiment, sauce, and dressing flavors, which outweighs their collective appeal for other buzzed about attributes such as non-GMO, organic, and imported.

Don’t forget the signature sauce

Americans still favor the staples of ketchup, mustard, and mayo overall. However, when it comes to eating out, more than 40% of consumers have specific signature sauces in mind when dining at their favorite establishments. Proponents of Chick-Fil-A’s signature yellow sauce find it particularly addictive (also don’t forget the massive online backlash Chick-Fil-A faced when they tried 86’ing their original BBQ sauce in favor of a new concept), while Outback Steakhouse patrons like the tanginess of the blooming onion sauce, to name just a few.

Recently McDonald’s even brought back their Szechuan sauce, a limited-edition condiment meant to promote the 1998 movie “Mulan,” paying homage to an episode of the tv series “Rick and Morty” that highlighted the Asian-inspired condiment. Prior to this, single packages of this sauce sold for thousands of dollars in some cases on eBay. The hype is real, as more than 90 percent of consumers who enjoy signature sauces feel likely to purchase them at retail, giving operators a key opportunity to capitalize on this demand. And many have, such as Taco Bell and Olive Garden which offer their taco sauces and Italian dressing, respectfully, in grocery stores nationwide.

Going global (and regional)

In recent years, sriracha has entered the everyday vernacular becoming a nearly ubiquitous condiment, paving the way to more consumer acceptance and interest of global flavors. Now on the horizon are other global favorites such as Tunisian harissa, South Korean gochujang, and Argentinian chimichurri. According to Datassential’s machine learning tool haiku, these sauces are poised to breakout, experiencing solid growth in the years ahead. Gochujang, for example, is projected to nearly double in menu penetration by 2022. If going global is a bit too far out of the box, try taking just a few steps out by putting some regional spins on classics. Mustard for example, can be dressed up into regional variations such as bourbon or Creole mustard just by simply adding some ingredients from afar. Whether global or regional, many operators are more than willing to adapt, with more than 40 percent expressing interest in imported sauces and more than two-thirds intrigued with purchasing regional sauce brands.

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Gerald Oksanen is a senior analyst at Datassential, a supplier of trends, analysis and concept testing for the food industry. To purchase the Condiments, Sauces, and Dressings Keynote Report mentioned in this article, contact Datassential Managing Director Brian Darr at [email protected].


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