What's Trending in Condiments and Dressings?

Certain dishes just don't taste right without the extra kick a condiment or dressing can provide. There's more to condiments than yellow mustard and ketchup, however. Though the classics are holding strong, American eating habits are trending toward adding more spice and complexity when making condiment and dressing choices these days.

Condiments and Dressings by the Numbers

Technomic reported that over five years, condiment usage in restaurants saw a growth of 8.9%, peaking in 2013 with 14,954 dishes in 680 operations. Not surprisingly, there were high numbers of market penetration across the board, with 100% for Casual Dining; Fast Casual, Midscale and Fine Dining saw 96%, 98% and 99%, respectively; and Quick Service claimed 84%.

Is Ketchup Still King?

Ketchup is basically a way of life when we're kids. No food was complete without a squeeze of ketchup on the side, but as trends show, American tastes become a little more sophisticated as we get older when it comes to condiments. In fact, ketchup does not even show up in the top 10 most common condiments and dressings found in dishes, coming in 12th just under aioli, mayonnaise's fancier sibling. The top five include honey, salsa, vinaigrette, and mayonnaise, with ranch taking the top spot, undoubtedly due to its prevalence to show up on some of the most popular casual dining sandwiches, like chicken and turkey sandwiches or wraps, in addition to its use on pizza.

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Unlike ketchup, ranch is a more versatile condiment, with the breadth to span age groups, starting with as the go-to baby carrot partner in school lunches to the favorite salad or sandwich topping as adults. Even when it comes to fries, flavored mayonnaise, like chipotle or herbed, has become a more common occurrence included on the side of burgers and fries, although the ever-present bottle of ketchup will always be within reach if a bit a nostalgia is what we're craving.

International Flavors

A growing “sophistication” and more varied and ethnic taste in condiments and dressing is also notable when the fastest growing trends are broken down by region. Across the country, spicy is on the rise, with chipotle salsa growing in popularity in the South and Northeast, which also has seen growth in habanero salsa and garlic aioli. In a study by Mintel in 2014, more than half of respondents said they preferred spicy and hot flavors, more than any other type of flavor, in their dressings, while less than half (46%) said they preferred sweet flavors.

Yet, international flavors are even more evident the fastest growing trend in condiments and dressings. The West and Midwest are seeing a rise in South American flavors, like black bean salsa; the Northeast is embracing England with the Marie Rose sauce; and the South and West are taking influence from Italy with gremolata. These, paired with the international flair of the dishes rising fastest in popularity incorporating dressings and condiments (i.e., tacos, tortas, lamb dishes and tostadas), make it clear that the American public is interested in embracing new flavors alongside the classics.

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