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The desire for product versatility is a major trend affecting the dip, sauce and dressing category, manufacturers have found. As Jay Alley, VP of sales at Saginaw, Texas-based Fresherized Foods, which makes the Wholly Guacamole and Wholly Salsa lines, puts it: “Usage is changing. Avocados and salsas are not just for chips anymore.”
Beyond that shift, however, other important consumer trends have inspired manufacturers to adapt their latest offerings accordingly.
“With moms trying to deliver healthier options to the dinner table and snacking becoming the go-to meal during the day, the avocado is becoming the next superfood,” affirms Alley. In keeping with this emphasis on health, the brand is currently “featuring a Turkey Burger recipe with Jennie-O Turkey just in time for the New Year’s dieters looking for healthier options. If we can show them how to exchange mayo and ranch for our guacamole, which is all-natural with no preservatives, they can feel good about feeding our product to their family.”
Grocers can get in on the better-for-you act as well, Alley believes. “We see the retailer dietitian playing an important role in our category,” he says. “We think they are the secret weapon of all retailers, as they reach out and educate consumers on healthy eating. They are a huge supporter of healthy snacking/condiments, and that is where dips come in.”
According to Alley, Wholly’s healthy attributes, which also include being dairy- and gluten-free, “are not just for niche groups anymore. All kinds of people are looking for these key attributes to replace old, bad habits. The fact that our product is consistently delicious, is versatile for so many meal plans and is so convenient gives us an advantage over other products.”
At Hidden Valley Ranch, a brand of the Clorox Co. in Oakland, Calif., “we know consumers are trying to be healthier, but most want easy ways to do this without sacrificing on taste,” notes Elaine Jun, marketing manager for the brand. “Hidden Valley capitalizes on this with its light and dry portfolios, and plans to continue to add to them with new flavors and serving sizes. For example, [our] new sandwich spreads are made with cream cheese and white beans and are low-fat, with one-third the calories of mayonnaise and only 2 grams of fat per serving.”
“The trends are going fresh, natural, clean, sugar-free and gluten-free,” observes Mary Shepard, director of sales-retail & foodservice at Kirkland, Wash.-based Fortun Foods Inc., maker of a line of refrigerated finishing sauces. “We have all that and more, low in sodium, use [of] sea salt, low-cholesterol and saturated fat-free. Today’s consumers are savvy and educated on ingredients.”
Chicago-based marinade maker Uncle Dougie’s “super-clean” ingredient slate plays into consumer health concerns, CEO Tim Condon asserts. “Our customers are label readers,” he notes, adding that triggers to this behavior include becoming a parent, and the rising obesity epidemic. In keeping with this increasing popular practice, the company last year redesigned its label to feature Uncle Dougie’s all-natural content front and center, to “make sure we get credit for how good the product [is] in the bottle,” as Condon puts it. This commitment to a “no-crap credo” enables it to stand out in the marinade/wing sauce segment, in which preservatives are normally “ubiquitous,” according to the exec.
Another big trend is a greater willingness to engage in culinary exploration. “We are … seeing millennials and gen Y being more adventurous in their eating and cooking habits,” says Alley. “They also like it hot! Increased sales on spicy flavors as well as spicy cuisine (Indian, Thai, etc.) are noted.”
“We’re seeing consumers increasing in openness to new flavors – mostly coming from different cultural groups,” agrees Jun. “We’re capitalizing on that with new flavors in dressing that are currently in development.”
This penchant for the new and exciting is also leading to the reinvention of familiar foods, Jun believes. “We’ve noticed that familiar standbys, like sandwiches and burgers, are taking on new flavors and nontraditional ingredients,” she says. “People want new flavors to kick up their old favorites. We think [our] new sandwich spreads line is a good illustration of this trend.”