A flavorful story
The concept of artisanal authenticity lends itself very well to the condiment category, according to Mr. Meikle, from Mizkan America. And that contributed to the popularity of sriracha.
“Telling the story of flavor involves going back to the roots of food, where it originated, how it was cultivated and the methods by which it was prepared,” he said. “Millennial audiences, in particular, want flavors that spark their imaginations and tell a story. This gives them incentive to choose a food.”
For example, Mizkan now offers Barengo Balsamic Vinegar of Modena, which is crafted from grapes grown in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy using techniques passed down through generations.
Mr. Meikle agreed that people love polarizing, supercharged flavor combinations because they stimulate the palette in unique, unexpected ways and often tie in multi-ethnic ingredients and artisanal authenticity.
“One of my favorite examples is fried chicken coated in a bourbon, red jalapeño and maple syrup sauce,” he said. “This sauce contains deep caramel notes derived from the maple syrup layered with sharp floral notes from the jalapeños, with hints of earthy and vanilla notes from the bourbon, delivering an explosion of flavor.”
Innovative condiment creations are also being driven by the desire for cleaner labels with easy-to-understand ingredients and healthful profiles. To accomplish this, formulators are reaching into their culinary bag of tricks to add zest and zing to products that appeal to the most discriminating label reader.
For example, condiments have long been a source of excessive sodium.
“The days of relying on salt as the ‘magic bullet’ to provide a boost of flavor are long gone,” said Mr. Gunn. “One of my favorite flavor-boosting ingredients is miso powder. It helps bolster that foundational umami flavor we get with added salt. I also like roasted onion base. Adding a little to a formula boosts the roasted or sautéed characteristics of kettle-cooked condiments. Another favorite is lemon juice, just enough to brighten the flavors of the condiment.”
Mr. Jensen believes food toppings should complement food, not overpower it. With this mindset, he created Kettle Cooked Peppers and Onions flavor enhancer, condiment, dip, sauce and marinade. Made with 100% pure olive oil, this pourable product contains no added sugars or preservatives and comes in original and sriracha flavors.
Peppers and onions are caramelized in small batch kettles. The heat allows for non-enzymatic browning of the natural sugars, which produces a more immediate, intense sweetness in the product. The sriracha variety is the original product formulation, just with some kick.
For some companies, that go-to flavor speaks to the region, adding authenticity.
“As Mainers, we like to use maple syrup and maple sugar as a sweetener to provide a recognizable point of difference from more generic sweeteners,” Mr. Cousminer said. “We use it in jams, dressings and sauces, fruit butters, mustards, even in an aioli to provide that ‘touch of New England.’”
Michael Anderson, founder, Spice Crafters LLC, Orlando, is introducing chilau sauce — a Cuban-inspired tomato-based enchilada sauce that has evolved over the years in central Florida — which he calls a “Tampa thing.”
“Chilau not only represents a historic time and flavor of Tampa Bay, it represents cultural diversity and a lifestyle of down-home cooking, seafood and family,” Mr. Anderson said. “Today’s consumers are seeking more of what’s different and delicious. I think we are only scratching the surface of what flavors are to come through combinations of ingredients from different cultures and varied cooking styles.”