If the endless TV shows about bygone days have got it right, a few decades ago British food was truly awful for millions of households and table sauces were massmarketed as the only way to make it palatable. Since then, despite a legion of TV cooks appealing to all tastes with endless programmes and books and a trillion recipes out there on the internet, the fact remains that we still love our table sauces.
True, if the cook has spent ages preparing the meal and getting the flavours right, they might well shout at the rest of the household for daring to put sauce on their food. Food snobs look down their noses at the rest of us who dare to use sauces. It’s possible to pigeonhole someone from seeing the label of their sauce bottle, but that’s overlooking the instant nostalgic pleasure that classic sauces like brown sauce, fruity sauce and tomato deliver to everyone, whoever they are.
Meanwhile we are definitely getting – no other word for it – more saucy! According to research experts Euromonitor the popularity of spicy sauces, dressings and condiments has intensified further among British consumers in recent times. This trend has been around for a long time, of course, and appreciating exotic foods is a must in preparing the palette for spicy flavours, given that traditional British cuisine is still generally relatively bland. Even so, Heinz Tomato Ketchup is one mega brand that has recently added a host of hotter varieties to its line up.
Euromonitor say it is the more modern products that are driving innovation and value growth in the category short-term. Traditional sauces, dressings and condiments such as gravy cubes and powders, pickled products and mustard reportedly became less popular in 2015, but these products have remarkable staying power in the UK and as consumer trends tend to be cyclical, they are liable to return to strong positive growth at short notice. Reports of their early demise may turn out to be exaggerated!
Over at Mintel Amy Price, Senior Food and Drink Analyst says our love affair with American-inspired barbecue sauces continues and restaurants and travel are influencing our usage of table sauces and seasonings. It will be interesting to see whether Brexit makes us more insular in our sauce habits and if we see a decline in the number of imported dressings and sauces from their current high levels. We can only buy what’s there on shelf, of course. And up to now sauces have traditionally been relatively cheap. If Brexit sparks more increases in product pricing in the wake of the Tesco-Unilever tussle, we can expect many family favourites to go up in price.