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Int’l flavor adds exotic flair to condiments


Flavors are driving food consumption today, as well as food retailing in particular. Combine that with the consumer demand for more convenience and the future of the condiment segment becomes clear.

It’s certainly clear to A&P, which has made international grocery, including a strong condiment element, central to its latest Food Emporium concept and Fresh store upgrades. Supervalu banners, including Jewel and Acme, have also experimented with merchandising that features trendy international flavors more prominently. In its Premium Fresh & Healthy merchandising program, as it works in the Cub chain, Supervalu uses banners within the international section to point out the products that are related to a specific international cooking style, including everything from German to Middle Eastern to Asian, depending upon ethnic mix and local interest.

In other words, retailers are realizing that simply adding more kinds of products—in a market where salsa has supplanted ketchup as condiment king—isn’t enough to address emerging trends; new ways of selling at store level are needed. Condiments play an important role because they can help consumers participate in a hot flavor trend in a convenient manner, and consumers today are demanding easy to apply solutions.

In the 52 weeks ended Jan. 27, the condiments/gravies/sauces category gained 2.1% in dollar terms at ACNielsen retailers. Ketchup was down and mustard up modestly; Mexican sauce—including salsa—was up 3.1%, capping three years of gains, to $950.6 million. Greg Dolan, senior brand manager for Pace, said flavored salsas, offered both by major producers and small specialty companies, have “exploded, and now about 22% of category sales are flavored salsas with different peppers, fruit and salsa verde varieties that have become a significant part of the growth.”

A pattern of discovery and adaptation continues to drive exotic condiments. Thai condiments and sauces, for example, have become stronger across North America as consumers have discovered new applications for their associated flavorings, including peanut sauce and fish sauce, a segment that Simply Asia Foods first attempted early last year.

“Certainly the ever-popular Thai peanut sauce has made its way on to pizza menus, into salad dressings and is being used as a popular BBQ marinade,” said Beth Conner, Thai Kitchen brand manager at Simply Asia Foods. “The versatility of fish sauce is also being more widely discovered by consumers. It adds a deeper savory note to food, in addition to salty flavor. It is therefore being substituted as a seasoning in popular non-Asian dishes, such as meatballs and marinara sauces, and is a popular anchovy substitute in Caesar salad dressings.”

Conner said that ACNielsen numbers demonstrate that “last year, the Thai food category in grocery grew 15.1% and stands at $35.1 million. Thai is outpacing the overall 4.2% Asian food growth.”

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