In a recent blog, Mintel suggested that a lack of innovation and higher prices have both played a part in a 10% fall in per capita usage between 2011 and 2015.
“The UK condiment market has failed to deliver even steady growth and alone among the top 10 EU markets has suffered a consumption decline,” wrote global food and drink analyst David Turner.
“While markets such as France, Spain and Germany have shown a stepped increase in the number of new table sauce, mayonnaise and dressing product launches since 2013, the UK saw a significant fall in innovation,” he added.
A recent uptick in new product development (NPD) – new sauce launches were up 10% last year – is welcome, but has done little to stem the decline, Turner said.
Some like it hot
Since 2015, new table sauce launches in the UK have featured more than 70 different flavour blends, with unusual ingredients like beetroot or pomegranate and chilli in vogue. In the “faster growing” markets like Italy and Spain, the flavour combinations were much lower at 23 and 56 respectively. There the focus has also been on texture.
Turner said this array of choice could hinder sales, but Kraft Heinz European marketing manager Olivia Hibbert said consumers are continuing to seek out new flavours and variety. “In order to ensure we cater to consumer needs we need to recognise this and give them the right options through consumer led innovations,” she told FoodNavigator.
One trend that has been critical to the development of sub-categories such as hot and barbecue is the Americana trend, said Hibbert. This trend has come through from foodservice. The growth of Heinz Barbecue Sauce, the new Heinz Yellow Mustard range and the growth of hot segments across Europe are “clearly influenced” by this trend, she explained.
The influence of the array of world cuisine now available on the high street cannot be underestimated. Data published by Euromonitor in February last year showed that global sales of hot chilli sauces grew by 8.3% in 2014 as western consumers grew more willing to experiment with new tastes.
Some of these, like the trend for hot sauces, are now already established subcategories in the UK market, but they are “just emerging” elsewhere, said Hibbert. “The UK is arguably more developed already in terms of the sauces category when it comes to flavour trends and the market size,” she added.
Low sugar drive
There will always be the need for a core range of sauces used for everyday such as tomato ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard; within these there will often be demand for low salt and sugar options.
Health remains a key concern for consumers shopping for condiments, and Heinz has launched its 50% less sugars ketchup across 20 markets in Europe in the past two years.
But has the popularity of global flavours and healthy sauces left texture in the dark?
In many western European countries phrases like “crispy”, “crunchy” and “chunky” can often be found on packaging, but “in the last four years, few if any, UK table sauces, mayonnaise or dressing launches made reference to texture in their product descriptions”, said Turner at Mintel.
A focus on novel textures for popular flavours may help to secure more permanent fixture space, he argued. “Use of vegetable pieces can provide chunky and/or crispy benefits and would also help promote a sense of ‘real’ food, whereas textural innovations along the lines of nitrogenation could help provide a different, smoother, more premium mouthfeel,” he added.
Sauces are all about delivering great taste as the number one category driver, Hibbert responded. “For us, taste and texture are inextricably linked.”