TABLE TALK – Springtime for sauces and condiments

chazSauces and condiments are staple products for independent retailers and catering customers, and a ‘tasty’ sales opportunity year in year out for the cash ‘n’ carries and delivered wholesalers who supply them. But when spring comes, it’s peak season for these popular seasonings.

There’s an interesting psychology to how we use table sauces and condiments. In cold weather we eat indoors and tend to use sauces sparingly. When it’s cold, as a nation we are literally ‘bottled up.’ As the temperature rises and we eat more meals outside we become more inclined to splash out. And when we’re out and about, we take after our continental cousins and happily eat at pavement cafés and pubs, where we enjoy the sauces and condiments on offer.

Table talk covers a wide spectrum, from table sauces and mayonnaise, via hot sauces to pickles, chutney and relish. In table sauces and mayo, the two market leading brands are long established global icons that 9 out of 10 consumers recognise instantly in store, and so will your customers – Heinz Tomato Sauce and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. These two giants have built the British sauces market more than anyone, and both continue to invest heavily to keep their brands front of mind for consumers.

Tomato ketchup and mayonnaise dominate the table sauces market and to a large extent dictate the fortunes of the overall category, but alongside them there’s still plenty of scope for other recipes and tastes. Brown sauce has its own following: in recent years niche products such as Encona hot pepper sauce have also been gaining ground and moving out of their original strongholds in the ethnic community into the mainstream. So it pays for you to enable your customers to stock these products.

The market for pickles, chutney and relish is considerably smaller than table sauces and mayo. Mintel maintains this market has not grown in real terms for the past five years, and is not likely to grow in the next five, without the marketing investment we see in table sauces and mayo. Nevertheless these products remain important for wholesalers and their customers.

Many products in the pickles, chutneys and relishes market also serve as accompaniments. Pickles comprise sour pickles in pickling spice and vinegar, such as onions, gherkins, cucumbers, cabbage, beetroot and walnuts; piccalilli; and sweet pickles such as Branston. Relishes are an American concept, associated with burgers and barbecued meats.

Most commercially produced chutneys are now made here, and are still based on fruits rather than vegetables. With curry firmly established in our food repertoire, spice-loving Brits have taken chutneys to their hearts and given the chance will enjoy them with everything, all year round.