Equally popular to ethnic-infusion barbecue sauces are locally inspired American sauces. In fact, barbecue sauce is one of the original hand-crafted, artisan food categories, and it continues to have a very local presence.
|Dax Schaefer, executive chef for Asenzya|
“In the U.S., the term barbecue means many things to many people,” said Dax Schaefer, executive chef for Asenzya, Inc. “It can be something as simple as a technique, maybe a style of restaurant, or something as complex as a way of life that is handed down over generations. The generally accepted method of American regional barbecue is a technique of slow cooking the meat for a long period of time over very low heat using indigenous hardwood. This traditional method of cooking, when done over an open fire, is also referred to as pit cooking and delivers amazingly tender, moist products with distinctive smoky flavors.”
The flavors of American barbecue continue to evolve. According to an internet survey of 1,768 adult users of sauces, marinades, dressings or dry seasonings by Lightspeed GMI, almost half of respondents said they prefer spicy/hot flavors. Nearly 4 in 10 said they prefer sweet flavors, and a third said they prefer salty flavors. Nearly 4 in 10 said they prefer authentic U.S. regional flavors, with nearly a quarter preferring locally made. Almost the same percentage prefers international/ethnic flavors.
“These results underscore the need for brands to offer a wide variety of flavors, keeping up with trends consumers encounter in other food areas, to meet their demand for interesting tastes,” Mr. Schaefer said.
The Heinz brand is entering the barbecue sauce category with its Heinz BBQ sauce line, a collection of authentic regional sauces made with only 100% natural, locally inspired ingredients and recipes. The five sauces were developed in partnership with five of America’s top pit masters.
|Jessica Ryan, director of marketing for Kraft Heinz|
“As interest in barbecue continues to grow across the country, people are becoming more aware that different regions have different styles of sauce, but we know that a lot of consumers are reluctant to try a sauce from a brand they don’t know and trust,” said Jessica Ryan, director of marketing The Kraft Heinz Co.
That’s the inspiration behind the Pittsburgh-based company’s new line, which includes Classic Sweet & Thick BBQ Sauce, a well-rounded, all-American barbecue sauce. But it’s the four regional flavors that Heinz is talking up.
Kansas City Style Sweet & Smoky BBQ Sauce is said to be the perfect balance of thick, sweet and tangy. Memphis Style Sweet & Spicy BBQ Sauce, on the other hand, is based on brown sugar and has a rich and sweet taste with a pop of spice.
Texas Style Bold & Spicy BBQ Sauce is all about bold flavor. This sauce captures the best of Texas barbecue, combining spices such as cumin and chili powder with just the right kick.
Real Carolina barbecue plays on the deep-rooted traditions of whole hogs slow cooked over wood coals. For a true Carolina-style sauce, Heinz blends the distinctive tang of apple cider with a bit of sweet and spice to make Carolina Vinegar Style Tangy BBQ Sauce.
When it comes to local, Lamar Jones, a southern-bred inventor and teacher’s aide in the small southeast Texas town of Weslaco, produces The Jank, a line of barbecue sauce inspired by years of family cookouts. Slow-cooked and simmered for about eight hours before being bottled, Mr. Jones’ special recipe was commercialized after winning an inventor grant. He now produces the sauces at a new commercial rental kitchen in the city’s downtown district and sells them throughout Texas.
All-N-Food L.L.C., based in Belleville, Ill., creates wing and barbecue sauces infused with Yuengling brand beer. The company recently added a version infused with bacon.
“My passion is layering bold, complex flavors and textures, and I’d been intrigued for a long time by bringing together bacon and beer — two of America’s favorites — in a barbecue sauce,” said Brent Wertz, vice-president of culinary and product innovation for All-N-Food. “The mouthwatering result is a smokin’ little slice of heaven bursting with zing on the end of your fork, or if savored properly … dripping from your fingertips.”
Dry rubs continue to get more dynamic. The Yuengling brand has a line that includes barbecue, brown sugar barbecue, Jerk and smoked sea salt varieties. And Grill Mates is building on the regional taste trend with rubs in flavors such as Memphis Pit and Tennessee Smokehouse.
Morton Salt, Inc., Chicago, is expanding beyond table salt with a sea salt rub line in varieties such as cracked pepper and herb, Italian roasted garlic and Southwest BBQ.
KC Masterpiece, a barbecue sauce brand of the Clorox Co. based in Oakland, Calif., also is entering the dry rub category. The new line, which may be hydrated with water or other liquids to create a customized sauce, comes in Original BBQ, spicy habanero and sweet honey varieties.
“The technique of barbecue may be one of the oldest cooking styles in the world, but Americans have made a distinctly unique version to call its own,” Mr. Schaefer said. “The spiciness and new feel of many of the different sauces and rubs will attract the millennials just as the well-balanced flavor profiles will appeal to the baby boomers.”