Whether your like to top your hot dog with ketchup (in Chicago it’s a no-go!) or mustard, be prepared for some new kids on the condiment block. As our panel of industry experts recently told CRFN, topping your favourite foods with old standbys just isn’t going to cut it anymore. Read on to hear what they had to say about what’s new in Canadian condiments.
Graham Hayes, The French’s Food Company, Corporate Chef
Ryan Marquis, Corporate Chef, CW Shasky & Associates
Jon Stewart, The French’s Food Company, Key Account Manager – Food Service
What are some of the most interesting current trends with condiments in Canadian commercial foodservice?
Graham Hayes: A trend that seems to have grown over the past year is that people want real food, which means items on the label that they can read and understand and want to put in their body. Also people want to know where this real food is coming from, which in turn is leading back to locally sourced and produced product. A great example of that was French’s ketchup which has been a great success this year.
Ryan Marquis: One of the most interesting trends in the spicy sector is a “normalizing” of heat in the Hot Sauce category. Last year, it was all about heat — people were looking for the hottest sauces. Now, consumers are still craving heat, but are looking for more complex flavours in their hot sauce.
Jon Stewart: One of the biggest trends in condiments was consumers becoming more vocal about where ingredients are sourced from. It was dubbed, “The Ketchup Wars,” but what it boiled down to is Canadians caring that products are sourced where possible with local ingredients, and if not local then Canadian. Canadians are letting restaurateurs know that they are paying attention to what goes into what they eat.
Why are the above trends important and what can chefs and restaurant operators do to capitalize on them?
GH: As a chef or operator I believe this is a great time to use the power of the consumer and branding to help grow restaurant awareness and profits. Using a brand that is strong will give people confidence in your operation. In turn that will translate to more return visits and more profit. Also, people like to enjoy foods in restaurants that they do not cook at home, but they still like to have the same condiments. So taking fall-off-the-bone ribs and glazing them with a Memphis sweet BBQ sauce is something that can cover this.
RM: This trend is important for chefs because it indicates that the consumer’s pallet is changing, becoming more mature, and indicates a shift to a more flavour-enlightened’ audience. Chefs and operators can capitalize on this by providing a wider variety of spicy flavours that their customers can experiment with.
JS: I believe that Canadians are starting to hone in on a distinct sense of patriotism that has not been experienced in a few generations: Sourcing products with local, sustainable ingredients, where possible, and being transparent with your purchases. This will not only gain the trust of your guests, but support local communities as well.
What are the key factors currently driving menu innovation and the creative use of condiments?
GH: Global flavour is a word that we hear a lot and sometimes brush off. You cannot really do that now. We have such a diverse palate. The flavours that were at one time too far out are now the norm. The chefs and innovators of today will blend culture and flavours to create flavour bursts, like an Asian Caesar wing sauce with sweet chili and Caesar dressing, or a maple sriracha BBQ sauce. The customer is the driving force for this — they know these flavours are out there and want them.
RM: Health and ethnic flavours are driving condiment innovation. Consumers want unique, all-natural flavours and want to be able to “taste the world” at the same time. This will impact commercial foodservice as demand rises for more exotic style flavours to keep customers engaged and happy.
JS: Menu innovation will always be driven by the creativity in the back-of-the-house. Using a BBQ sauce, ketchup or mustard as a base to create your own signature flavour is something more chefs are working with. It is one thing to serve ketchup on your Local Antibiotic Free Slider burger, it is quite another to serve a “Maple bacon infused ketchup.” Using what operators already have in the pantry and creating new flavours with “+ 1” or “+ 2” recipes makes sense to differentiate yourself from other establishments, without breaking the bank or bringing additional products into your pantry.
What ethnically inspired condiments would be a good fit for chefs looking to expand their menus and why?
GH: Today we have so many flavours. Some of my favourites are sriracha, sweet chili, mustard-based BBQ sauce (Carolina style), rich sweet tomato-based BBQ sauce (Memphis sweet) and peri peri. All of these item can be blended with a few items to create a new flavour, such as blending a jerk spice with Memphis Sweet BBQ to create sweet jerk sauce.
RM: Sriracha is the obvious, most-recent, example of an ethnically influenced condiment that has seen a huge rise in popularity. However, staying a head of the curve will be vital once the flavour hits its threshold. Look out for an expansion of Southeast Asian condiments as people’s pallets look to explore the region further.
JS: Consumers are more savvy than ever, the food network, the Internet, and even talking with friends with diverse ethnic backgrounds, have created an age of the foodie that is unprecedented. People are looking for authenticity in their dining experience. If you are an English Pub, where bangers and mash are your staple, I would not recommend having a Bibimbap with Kimchi. However, if you are a “fusion maison” or gastro pub who pushes the boundaries of traditional cuisine, then Korean inspired flavours are really hot right now. Adding citrus to a BBQ sauce base, or infusing a ketchup with a sriracha are simple ways to add in ethnic flavours to a fusion-inspired menu.
What new condiment products are you developing?
GH: We are always looking at new trends and flavours and how we can introduce them to our line up whether it’s a flavoured mustard or a globally influenced BBQ sauce, or a new twist on the hot sauce. With ketchup we married the Frank’s® and French’s® brands to create a buffalo ketchup.
RM: The TABASCO® brand always strives to stay ahead of the curve in terms of ethnic and cultural flavours – this keeps the brand fresh and top-of-mind to customers, operators, and chefs knowing they can always trust our brand when they are looking new, innovative, and bold flavours for menus and recipes.