Ask someone from overseas who lives here to pick one thing that sums up British cooking, and chances are they’ll say table sauces.
As endless TV shows like to remind us, a few decades ago British food was truly awful for millions of households, and table sauces were one sure way to make it palatable.
Since those dark days the likes of Delia and Jamie have done a lot to turn us into sophisticated foodies, and sold barrowloads of recipe books in the process. But the fact remains that we still love our table sauces, even though the person cooking the meal might well shout at the rest of the household for adding sauce to their food. Especially Encona Hot Pepper Sauce on a bacon sandwich or chips (try it sometime…)
At the top of the UK sauce charts, Brown sauce, typically made from malt vinegar, tomato, dates, tamarind extract, spices and sweeteners, is the accompaniment for most things we eat, and especially that weekend treat, the full English breakfast.
Back in January Mintel made headlines in the Daily Mirror when they reported that brown sauce sales had plunged nearly a fifth. Mintel’s senior food analyst Richard Ford said the decline reflected changing eating habits, and the most common reason to forgo table sauces was that a typical meal no longer required them. The market research company quoted brown sauce sales had fallen from 16 million kg in 2013 to 13 million kg in 2014. However Heinz, which owns HP Sauce and Daddies, said Mintel’s figures were “at odds” with their data and independent analysis.
What is beyond argument in Mintel’s findings is that the revival of interest in scratch cooking has particularly benefited table sauces and seasonings. Flavour enhancement, customisation of dishes and using table sauces in a variety of ways are of great importance to table sauces users. Through adding premium ingredients or repositioning products as a gourmet alternative, table sauce and seasonings operators are looking to attract consumers looking to upscale at least a part of their dining experience.
With the burgeoning number of over-55s out there, healthier formulations present a viable means for sauce brands to stand out. They are significantly more likely than younger shoppers to see low fat, low salt, low sugar and being free from artificial additives and preservatives as important when choosing a table sauce. So let the shoppers pour on the sauce, and let the profits pour in.