A matter of taste Sauces and condiments are key on supermarket shelves

Sauces and condiments have long been a key part of the supermarkets’ grocery offering, but they play an even more important role in convenience format stores such as Little Waitrose and Sainsburys Local, where there’s only room for one or two facings of the key lines, so stocking the right variant is paramount.

Our changing meal preferences are hitting the demand for traditional condiments, but according to Mintel new products either focused around hot and spicy flavours or otherwise inspired by world cuisines have so far failed to change matters drastically. Yes, Heinz Tomato Ketchup sales fell 13% last year as younger consumers experimented elsewhere, but the big red one continues to dominate sauce sales overall.

That said, Mintel believe there is scope to generate growth in the table sauces and seasonings market by appealing to UK consumers’ increasingly varied tastes and interest in food trends such as American-style, Barbecue sauces and ethnic cuisines.

On the hotter side, American mustard, horseradish, wasabi and a host of other contenders are all growing but English mustard hangs on to its popularity in the face of this ‘hot’ competition. Earlier this year Colman’s, the UK’s number one brand in Mustards and Condiments, ran a tongue-incheek campaign to raise awareness of Colman’s Mustard’s superior heat among mustard fans and reassert its position as top dog.

In a separate move Colman’s brand owner Unilever has become a corporate member of the Q Guild of Butchers, the UK’s elite group of independent meat retailers. The move marks recognition of the quality heritage at the heart of the Colman’s and Maille brands, and fight back at smaller and speciality manufacturers chasing a bite of this market.

Mintel also reckon table sauces need to encourage more frequent usage and hence grow sales. One route is through more suggestions for using table sauces as a recipe ingredient and meal accompaniment. Cooking sauces are conventionally viewed as a different category from table sauces, but as a development area offer a clear opportunity for sauce manufacturers. Colman’s have already gone down the cooking sauces route but Encona has not done so yet, although it has the proven flavour expertise and is part of the Grace Foods family, with its Caribbean ingredients range. The fact that 80% of consumers use cooking or pasta sauces further supports the potential opportunity. Watch this spice!