Sales of cooking sauces, pasta sauces and marinades grew 12 percent between 2010 and 2015, according to Chicago-based Mintel International’s Cooking and Pasta Sauces, Marinades – US report from December 2015. The segment is expected to rise 13 percent between 2015 and 2020, reaching $6.2 billion. Mintel attributes the growing number of consumers interested in cooking, as well as rising sales of poultry and seafood, to continued gains for sauces and marinades.

Marinades, the smallest segment, reported the best performance, increasing 34 percent to $1.4 billion in sales, and is projected to rise 17 percent through 2020 to reach $1.6 billion, Mintel reports. Marinades experienced the strongest growth of all segments likely because of several major brands’ innovative launches that proved to be convenient and versatile, the research firm reports.

Nearly one-third (30 percent) of cooking sauce consumers use them to add flavor without adding too many calories, with Americans turning to cooking sauces mostly for adding spice (36 percent) to a dish, Mintel finds. Marinade consumers use these products mostly for their primary purpose — to tenderize — with 43 percent of users saying so, the research firm reports. This correlates with the fact that marinade users are more likely to use these products with red meat and poultry, which shows marinade users are pretty traditional in the reason and way they use marinades, it says. Still, more than one-quarter (27 percent) use marinades to complete a dish, suggesting a possible demand for new products that can be used not just to prepare a dish but also to finish it, the research firm adds. In addition, 32 percent of users turn to marinades to add flavor to a dish without adding too many calories.

Innova Market Insights’ Innova New Product Database in North America reports the number of launches recorded in both sauces and seasonings sub-categories has grown dramatically during the last five years, tracking more than twice the number of introductions in 2015 as in 2011, for both sub-categories.

Chili flavor, including varieties such as sriracha, is particularly on trend, with more than 55 percent more new product launches tracked in 2015 compared with 2014, Innova Market Insights reports. Ethnic flavors as a whole has increased from 4.5 percent in 2014 to 6.9 percent in 2015. Asian flavors such as Chinese, Thai and Indian particularly showed growth, the research firm says.

Natalie Tremellen, a market analyst for Innova Market Insights in Australia, sees more spicy ethnic flavors gaining traction for prepared meat and poultry products at retail.

“Due to the wider acceptance and overall desire for ethnic foods and flavors, American consumers want more authentic, ethnic flavor experiences, which usually translates as to being spicier and overall more complex,” she says.

For example, Korean-inspired flavors, Japanese teriyaki, Thai style and Mexican chili verde are in demand, Tremellen says. Many barbecue, chipotle and smoked flavor combinations also are still on trend. Favorites include honey barbecue, bourbon barbecue, mesquite smoked, hickory smoked and chipotle pineapple. Garlic and honey are still popular for marinades with various other complementing flavors, she adds.

“Many regional American flavors or styles which have been around forever are widely available for prepared meat products, by which consumers would feel very familiar and comfortable with,” Tremellen says. “Currently, primal cooking methods centered around fire and coals are a big trend for restaurants for imparting flavor while cooking meat and even vegetables. This trend should impact prepared meat products in the near future with specific fired, flamed and grilled flavors possibly being emulated via sauces, rubs and marinades.”

Sauces and Marinades Dining Out

Spicy ethnic sauces are gaining traction on restaurant menus as well. “Spicy continues to be a consumer and operator favorite from the actual term spicy to a variety of peppers like jalapeno, habanero and trendier ghost and shishito peppers,” says Jana Mann, senior director at Datassential, Chicago.

With ethnic spices, operators can offer a kick and also a bit of an ethnic feel to a dish such as when they use the terms wasabi, chipotle, sriracha and harissa, Mann explains.

In turn, the fastest growing sauces and flavors in restaurants, according to Datassential MenuTrends 2015, include Argentinean favorite chimichurri, which traditionally pairs with steak but is served with all types of proteins. Spicy also pops with chipotle, smoky barbecue and wing sauce all in the top 20.

Savory jams are also fast moving. “As consumers are already familiar with the texture and consistency of jam, the term transfers well,” Mann explains. “Operators are replacing traditional condiments like ketchup with tomato jam, topping a streak with bacon jam or making a pork chop stand out with an onion or pepper jam.”

Hearty proteins also stand up with flavor marinades, sauces and glazes that contain bourbon and beer. “Both of these are growing not only on the beverage menu, but also paired with proteins,” Mann says.

Consumer desire for healthy foods also has an impact on protein sauces, and one way to address that demand is through sauces and marinades favored in a Mediterranean diet. 

“Operators are turning to sauces and dips like hummus, tzatziki and yogurt dressings instead of richer, creamy options,” Mann explains. “With ingredients like yogurt, olive and flavors like garlic and lemon to make them pop, these sauces and marinades can add flavor and variety to protein favorites like chicken as well as heartier meats.”

Mixing sweet and savory is also on trend, with sweetness not being reserved for breakfast, desserts, and beverages anymore. 

“Consider chicken and waffles topped with rich and gooey maple syrup or fried chicken topped with honey butter,” Mann says. “A balsamic glaze can also add sweetness to proteins like chicken and pork chops. Caramelized onions, fruits and nuts can also complement a savory dish.”

While sweet is showing up on more menus, operators also are adding sour for flavor complexity. Examples include vinegar and citrus notes.

“Sour is the perfect balance to sweet and spicy and can add the final touch to make a dish pop with flavor,” Mann says. “On trend now are adding pickled veggies to dishes, including kimchee. Pickled onions with steak instead of caramelized, pickled onions with brisket, and pickled chilies with ribs are a few examples.”

As far as new sauces and marinades for meat and poultry products that are particularly growing, Thai sriracha sauce is the stand out. “This exotic and spicy sauce has been used as a flavor for snacks and is now being used for prepared meat products,” Tremellen says. “Sriracha offers an exciting alternative to the many different chili varieties for flavor.”

In regard to international trends for sauces and marinades for meat and poultry that have the potential to move to the United States, some chefs are using more wild herbs and spices in salts and rubs for more intense flavoring. “This trend could move down the line to prepared meat products in the U.S.,” Tremellen says. “But I think the big overarching trend will be the emergence of more exotic spices and sauces from all over the globe for marinades and sauces. There is a lot of talk about Korean gochujang, for example, which is a spicy chili paste, and North African and Middle Eastern spices, such as harissa and ras el hanout, which could be applied in marinades and rubs going forward.”

Tremellen also sees the opportunity for more emphasis on longer marinating times for improved flavor, along with a focus on more balanced flavors and not necessarily just spiciness and heat.

In terms of specific proteins, restaurant operators are offering a wider variety of flavors for fried chicken, representing the sweetest to the spiciest ends of the spectrum, according to Chicago-based Technomic Inc.’s 2015 Center of the Plate: Beef & Pork Consumer Trend Report. A variety of ethnic-inspired fried chicken sauces with different heat levels and sauces that are both sweet and spicy or fruity and spicy are all trending, the research firm says. Bold seasonings and marinades also are popular. As the focus on chicken grows, Technomic predicts restaurants will differentiate through new ethnic flavors and ingredients, such as African chicken dishes (see Figure 1).

Despite all the talk of ethnic flavors, Technomic saw interest in teriyaki decrease for chicken, turkey, pork and beef (see figures 2 and 3). The research firm also saw interest in trying chicken entrées with new flavors has decreased from 61 percent in 2013 to 55 percent in 2015. Technomic reports this may be a result of the resurgence in traditional chicken dishes, such as Southern-style and Nashville chicken, and increasing preference for American-style chicken.

Despite interest in healthful preparations, the appeal of turkey glazes, sauces and marinades is increasing, Technomic finds. In addition, differentiated glazes, such as those with bold and unique flavors, can help restaurants create dishes that are difficult for consumers to replicate at home, the research firm says.

For beef and pork, leading restaurants are turning out innovative, ethnic and barbecued pork and chicken dishes to replace increasingly costly beef, Technomic says. While consumers indicate they favor the natural taste of beef and pork, dishes featuring flavorful spices, glazes and marinades continue to hold strong appeal, particularly among younger consumers. Technomic predicts restaurants will begin offering concepts catering to younger patrons that impart unique flavors in beef and pork dishes, such as with new ethnically inspired sauces.  NP

Next-level flavors

What’s the next wasabi? Or sriracha? Datassential’s MenuTrends crunches the numbers on the flavors and ingredients that have been growing rapidly at innovative operators across the country. These are the next-generation flavors from around the world — Spain, France, Japan, the Middle East, Italy, Africa and beyond. If cutting-edge flavors matter to you, keep this list handy in 2016.

  1. Padron peppers — Like shishito peppers, every so often one of these peppers grown in Northwestern Spain packs a punch of heat.
  2. Pistou — Sometimes called “French pesto,” this mix of garlic, basil and olive oil is a staple in Provencial French cooking.
  3. Espelette — Also called piment d’Espelette, these bright red peppers are produced in France’s Basque region and often found dried or powdered.
  4. Sumac — The dark red berries of the Middle Eastern sumac bush are typically found powdered and sold as a spice — it has a tart, lemony flavor.
  5. Mostarda — An Italian condiment in which fruits are candied and preserved with a bit of mustard seeds, powder or oil, often accompanying meats.
  6. Sorrel — This green leafy plant has a citrusy, tangy, lemony taste and is often used in salads, egg dishes or soups.
  7. Romesco — This bright red sauce or dip made from roasted nuts and red peppers is a staple in the Catalan region of Spain.
  8. Turmeric — This bright yellow spice, which adds a vivid hue to any dish, has been trending for its health properties — look for it in smoothies and juices.
  9. Shiso — Also known as Japanese basil, this relative to mint is often served with sushi, but it can also be added to salads, soups, rice bowls and stir-fries.
  10. Berbere — This Ethiopian spice mix often includes chili peppers, fenugreek seeds, ginger, garlic, cinnamon, paprika and more.

Source: Datassentials