CHICAGO — Culinary professionals are increasingly melding the unknown with the familiar, crafting condiments consumers may use to garnish foods to serve meals with an adventurous twist. The condiment creations also are being driven by the desire for cleaner labels and the development of more relatable ingredients. To accomplish this, formulators are using unique tricks to add zest and zing while keeping ingredients labels simple and sodium and sugar contents under control. 

For example, Jensen’s Kitchen L.L.C., Syosset, N.Y., debuted an all-purpose condiment and flavor enhancer at the Summer Fancy Food Show this past June. New Kettle Cooked Peppers and Onions, which comes in both original and sriracha flavors, contains no added sugars or preservatives. The product is the brainchild of the company’s founder Rob Jensen.

“I believe we are reaching a point where we are exhausting the consumer with way too many flavors,” Mr. Jensen said. “There is so much going on that you really don’t know what you are tasting anymore. So I wanted to get back to the basics.

“I created the original recipe to complement food and not to overpower it. I do not cut any corners by diluting our base with a mix of olive/vegetable and canola oil. I use 100% pure olive oil. I also do not add any sugar. Instead, I caramelize peppers and onions in small batch kettles to get a natural and delicious sweetness you can taste immediately.”

The sriracha recipe is the original product with some kick.

“I don’t want to compete with the hundreds of hot sauces out there,” Mr. Jensen said. “But rather provide a nice medium so you can still taste your foods.”

Chef Alon Shaya, Blue Plate
Alon Shaya, chef-restaurateur, recently developed recipes using new Blue Plate Light Mayonnaise with Greek Yogurt for the condiment’s national launch.

Alon Shaya, a James Beard Award winner and chef-restaurateur in New Orleans, said, “Any chef will tell you that balance is critical.”

Mr. Shaya recently developed recipes using new Blue Plate Light Mayonnaise with Greek Yogurt for the condiment’s national launch by Reily Foods Co., New Orleans.

“(This mayo) strikes a great balance, as it’s slightly creamier, slightly tangier than traditional mayo, but still serves to enhance the natural flavor of food,” he said. “I love cooking Mediterranean-style food, and I can attest to the authentic flavor Blue Plate has achieved. It has a unique yet familiar flavor and works well in a variety of recipes, like my charred broccoli salad with curry. Blue Plate Light Greek really makes the flavors pop.”

Consumer research shows that Greek yogurt has come into its own as a food trend, and U.S. consumption is expected to reach $4 billion by 2019. Blue Plate Light Greek features a flavor that lends itself to sandwiches, salads and more. The added protein is a nutritional benefit not found in any other mayonnaise.

Opa pourable Greek dressing
Earlier this year, Litehouse Foods added OPA Greek Yogurt pourable salad dressings to its refrigerated dressing line.

Could Greek be the new heat in condiments? Probably not a replacement, as heat seems to have become the norm in the condiment aisle. But the zing of acidic yogurt rounded with the zest of lemon and other citrus is definitely increasingly appearing in dressings and will likely find its way into other condiments.

For example, earlier this year, Litehouse Foods, Sandpoint, Idaho, added OPA Greek Yogurt pourable salad dressings to its refrigerated dressing line, joining the OPA spoonable jarred yogurt dressing line that was launched in 2013. The new product line is big in flavor and low in calories. The dressings contain zero trans fat, no monosodium glutamate, no artificial preservatives, no high-fructose corn syrup and are gluten-free. The five varieties are: avocado cilantro (a creamy combination of avocado and cotija cheese, blended with fresh cilantro and topped off with a spicy kick of poblano chiles), curry (an Indian-inspired combination of garlic, green onion and red pepper), roasted garlic (a bold blend of roasted garlic cloves with kitchen spices), strawberry poppyseed (a sweet combination of strawberries and poppy seeds) and Tzatziki ranch (a refreshing option with tastes of cucumber and dill for Mediterranean food lovers).

More recently, the company added OPA by Litehouse Coleslaw dressing. Using Greek yogurt as a base provides twice the protein and 45% fewer calories than traditional coleslaw dressings.

Opa Coleslaw
More recently, Litehouse Foods introduced OPA by Litehouse Coleslaw dressing.

Another trend is “glocal” flavors, or globally-inspired flavors with a local flair. That’s what you get with the new line of Hawaiian-inspired barbecue sauces from King’s Hawaiian, Torrance, Calif. Original sweet pineapple pairs tangy barbecue zest and sweet pineapple. Smoked bacon is made with chunks of rich smoky bacon in a tangy sweet sauce. Big Island Lava is all about the heat and includes the boldness of red jalapeños, traditional island spices and a hint of sweetness. Kona coffee is tangy sauce with real Kona coffee, which is said to enhance the natural flavors of barbecued meat.

The Kraft Heinz Co., Pittsburgh, now offers a collection of regional barbecue sauces made with locally-inspired ingredients and recipes. The five sauces were developed in partnership with five of America’s top pit masters, according to the company.

“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.

That’s the inspiration behind the new line, which includes Classic Sweet and 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 and Smoky BBQ Sauce is said to be the perfect balance of thick, sweet and tangy. Memphis Style Sweet and Spicy BBQ Sauce, on the other hand, is based on brown sugar and has a rich and sweet taste with a pop of spice.

The Jank barbecue sauce
Several companies are launching new barbecue sauces, a condiment that continues to see demand from consumers.
Source: The Jank

Texas Style Bold and Spicy BBQ Sauce is about big, bold flavor. The sauce captures the best of Texas barbecue, combining spices such as cumin and chili powder with just the right kick.

Real Carolina barbecue is all about the deep-rooted traditions of whole-hog barbecue 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.

According to The Association for Dressings and Sauces, Atlanta, the condiment aisles — refrigerated and ambient — will continue to diversify as a result of consumers’ growing interest in food adventure. Some of the up-and-coming flavor trends include citrus and tropical, often with a layer of heat, while avocado is one of the fastest growing flavors. There’s also a lot of movement beyond simply heat, with formulators playing up the fruitiness and other flavor nuances of hot peppers. For example, habanero blended with a tropical fruit tames the heat while bringing forward unexpected savory notes.

Benjamen Woodbridge, marketing research manager at Litehouse, sums up the future of condiments.

“With the removal of generic ethnic flavors (Italian, Mexican, etc.) from shelves, and the introduction of products touting real ingredients (avocado, harissa, etc.), manufacturers are responding to the demand for genuine worldly flavors,” he said. “(The younger generations) grew up with these worldly flavors being around them at every meal, so they expect that these flavors will find their way into sauces, marinades and salad dressings.”