Dressings & sauces: Cost, cleanliness and flavor innovation

by Keith Nunes
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Three trends are driving the dressing and sauces category.

Cleanliness” and cost are two trends driving the sauces, dressings and marinades category. Manu-facturers are attempting to develop products that meet the consumer’s shifting criteria for clean label or natural while also staying within their price point.

“More and more people are asking about natural, clean label,” said Brook Ellis, technical services manager for TIC Gums, Inc., White Marsh, Md. “There are different definitions for those terms, but people are leaning that way. They are also leaning toward non-G.M.O.”

The current trend toward clean labels presents a significant and fast growing opportunity, according to Packaged Facts, Rockville, Md. Food manufacturers that are able to shorten their ingredient lists and substitute ingredients perceived as artificial with natural or recognizable ingredients will continue to edge up in market share and market penetration.

Also, many natural additives have reduced shelf stability, in comparison to the artificial additives that they replace. Flavor, in particular, has a way of degrading more rapidly for all natural products. The situation presents ample opportunity for the development of natural, shelf stable flavors that can meet consumer demand for clean labels.

“We work to help our customers meet their goals and take cost out of the system, too,” Mr. Ellis said. “Gums are essential for the texture of dressings and we are working on improving the manufacturing process.”

Separation is an issue in the sauces and dressing category. Hydrocolloids play a role in the development of texture and stability in such products. To develop a marketable dressing or sauce, a product must have viscosity, emulsification and flavor.

From a processing perspective, the use of gums in a system was an area of concern due to the potential for excessive dusting or lumping within a solution. Lumps tend to occur when gums are inadequately dispersed and allowed to hydrate without sufficient shear. Some solutions include dry blending and oil slurries, but the efforts also tend to be labor intensive.

“Time is money,” Mr. Ellis said. “We look for ways to take cost out of the system and improve the process.”

TIC Gums has developed several solutions to improve processing efficiencies, including FASTir Xanthan EC and Pre-hydrated Ticaxan Rapid-3. The ingredients disperse quickly and allow for low-shear mixing, eliminating the need for excess product to compensate for “unhydrated” gum.

The ingredients reduce rework and batch times, Mr. Ellis said, and allow operators to focus on other aspects of production.

During the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition, held June 21-24 in New Orleans, Ingredion, Inc., Westchester, Ill., introduced PRECISA Sperse 100. The ingredient is a cold-swelling starch that delivers dispersibility with fast thickening at the same time, according to the company.

“PRECISA Sperse 100 starch brings the next-level of instant dispersibility and thickening, allowing consumers or foodservice operators to prepare restaurant quality products faster and with less effort,” said Angelina De Castro, savory marketing manager with Ingredion.

Ingredion also offers a series of on-line savings calculators for the manufacturers of soups, sauces and dressings. The company said it introduced the calculators as a way to help manufacturers address the rising costs of such ingredients as eggs and oil.

As an example, the company noted that up to 14% savings may be achieved when reducing vegetable oil from 45% to 33% in a salad dressing. For a manufacturer producing 50 million lbs of dressing, the cost savings may amount to approximately $1.2 million per year.

And the company said over 25% cost savings potentially may be achieved when eliminating eggs from spoonable dressings to allow allergen-free claims. For a manufacturer producing 50 million lbs of dressings, the cost savings may amount to approximately $1.7 million per year.

“The savory savings calculators demonstrate our unique ability to couple innovative ingredients with technical, applications and sensory expertise to deliver a product that will meet consumer taste and texture expectations,” Ms. de Castro said. “In some instances, ingredients are reduced or replaced to improve nutritional quality, such is the case with reducing fat/oils or, to remove allergens, eliminating eggs from dressings, both of which are examples of how Ingredion can help support our customers in their efforts to achieve their particular goals while maximize margins.”

Savory, spicy flavor trends

While cost management and the cleanliness of a label may be market drivers for the manufacturers of dressings and sauces, it is taste that motivates consumers. As with other segments of the food and beverage category, taste trends are moving quickly.

At this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show, held this past month in New York, it was evident smokey, spicy and savory were in. A smoke flavor, for example, was used to add complexity to the usual suspects, such as Hot Smoky Barbecue Sauce from Lillie’s Q Barbecue Sauces and Rubs. Also on display, Bluegrass Soy Sauce from Bourbon Barrel Foods is micro-brewed using Kentucky-grown soybeans fermented and aged in repurposed bourbon barrels.

During the Institute of Food Technologists’ annual meeting and food exposition, Mizkan Americas, Mount Prospect, Ill., demonstrated how spirit-infused flavors are gaining popularity as an ingredient in sauces and marinades. Bourbon is one category driver, according to the company. Mizkan produces a variety of denatured spirits and spirit reductions to meet the demands of spirit-infused formulas, including bourbon, brandy, rum, tequila, vodka and whiskey.

“Whiskey is a product with heft and heritage in America,” said Dave Sackett, executive director of sales and marketing for Mizkan Food Ingredients. “Consumers are really embracing whiskey’s history and tradition right now. We are seeing demand for whiskey and other spirits increase alongside the innovations happening on restaurant menus.”

Spicy is also a flavor element that is driving market growth. On the heels of sriracha are new hot and spicy flavor profiles. For example, the new Hatch Chile Cookin’ Sauce from Stubb’s Legendary Kitchen combines the New Mexican peppers with garlic and a hint of lime. Spicy is also a trend that may have legs, said Nancy Kruse, president of Kruse Co., Atlanta, during Technomic’s Restaurants Trends & Directions Conference, held June 18 in Chicago.

“All non-Western cuisines are assertively flavored,” she said. “From a food point of view, ghost peppers have moved from being a cult item to fairly broadly picked up in the mainstream. It’s one of the two or three hottest peppers in the world. Four hundred times hotter than Tabasco.”

Earlier this year, Jack in the Box introduced Jack’s Blazin’ Chicken Sandwich, topped with a ghost pepper-ranch sauce and Swiss-style cheese.

“The name of the item gives a clear signal to the consumer that something hot and spicy is going on,” Ms. Kruse noted. “No surprises. And the approach from a flavor perspective is balanced; the heat is offset by dairy fat.”
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