Many food trends in the United States can be traced back to a hot regional cuisine of the latest health kick. That would explain the recent popularity of such items as dried Sriracha seasoning rubs or elderberry vinaigrettes. But when a retailer or product manufacturer can innovate around a consumer’s sentimental favorite — that can be lightning in a bottle.
Trader Joe’s, for example, has throngs of fans raving about its Everything But the Bagel Seasoning, named the “Favorite Overall” product at the retailer during its annual Customer Choice Awards. Trader Joe’s followed up with Everything But the Elote Seasoning, a blend inspired by the Mexican grilled corn Elote, a popular street food, and builds off the bagel seasoning mix. Aldi recently came out with an Everything But the Bagel seasoning, too, a nod to the product’s popularity.
While some of these forces may linger, marketers can get ahead of the curve by focusing on broader, more evergreen consumer trends. For example, the growing demand for ready-to-eat foods and convenience foods has been driving higher sales in the seasoning category, said NSMA’s Post, noting the benefit of using dried herbs as a quick flavor enhancer with little monetary or caloric expense. Using seasonings allows manufacturers to lower salt and sugar content of their products, while providing unique flavors to make a range of foods more appealing and satisfying for consumers, he said.
Blanford agrees. “This year you can expect to see us drive the development of products that meet the consumer’s growing demand for better-for-you offerings,” he said. New launches will include a zero grams of added sugar ketchup under Litehouse Foods’ Organicville brand, a line of non-GMO freeze dried herbs under the Green Garden brand and a relaunch of Greek yogurt-based dressings offering lower calories and extra protein under the core Litehouse brand.
New Formulations and Formats
While flavor experimentation may work well in dips and sauces, it is more challenging in tried-and-true pantry staples like condiments. The ketchup category, for example, has seen very little in the way of organic growth or innovation lately and continues to be dominated by Heinz, which has roughly 50% market share. “Retailers, every cycle, will come back and ask us what flavored ketchup we are working on,” says Renee Hicks, director of private brands at The Fremont Company in Fremont, Ohio. “For most people, ketchup is just ketchup. They don’t want us to mess with it."