If your refrigerator door is stocked with just two bottles of condiments—one Crayola yellow, the other Crayola red—and you use them only in strict traditional fashion (mustard on hot dogs, ketchup on French fries), then your taste buds are missing out. New, unusually flavored condiments are gaining popularity, as is the idea that classic condiments can be used in unusual ways.
Most people are fairly set in their ways when it comes to condiments. After a lifetime of putting spicy brown mustard on your Sabrett, you don’t just wake up one morning and decide you prefer hot dogs with ketchup—let alone ranch dressing. Even so, foodies and everyday eaters seem open to trying new flavors. There’s no reason, after all, that Heinz ketchup, or any ketchup, must be served at every meal. Here are a few of the ways the world of condiments is being shaken up.
Mustard in (Rather Than on) Food
French’s Yellow Mustard accounts for 27% of the mustard market in the U.S. But there’s always room to grow, right? Thursday’s New York Times highlights the efforts of French’s mustard to advertise its way into your regular rotation of ingredients added to all sorts of recipes, from mac-and-cheese to filet of salmon.
Salad Dressing as the “New Ketchup”
Sure, Hidden Valley ranch dressing works on salads. As the Wall Street Journal recently pointed out, though, new bottles of the creamy dressing come with a label boldly calling it “The New Ketchup.” The product—which is Hidden Valley’s original ranch dressing inside, only thicker—comes in a classic ketchup-style squeeze bottle and is officially named “Hidden Valley for Everything.” There’s even a little picture of a burger and fries on the bottle, with dressing oozing out from under the burger and a tiny dish filled with dressing for dipping.
New Ketchup as the “New Ketchup”
There are hundreds of varieties of mustards, and many eaters have different favorites depending on what they’re eating—spicy deli mustard on sandwiches, honey mustard with chicken, horseradish mustard on kielbasa, and so on. But ketchup? Most people defer to the standard, Heinz, no matter what they’re eating. In 2004, Malcolm Gladwell tracked the frustrating struggle for food makers to come up with a better, or at least intriguingly different ketchup in a celebrated article called “The Ketchup Conundrum” for The New Yorker. That story ended with the desultory conclusion that most people just like Heinz best, and probably always will.
Even so, that hasn’t stopped foodies (and folks who market to foodies) from trying to produce new and exciting ketchups. It may be unsurprising that two of the hottest hot spots for new and unusual indie “craft” ketchup brands are two well-established foodie paradises, both named Portland—in Oregon and Maine.
One of this spring’s most celebrated store openings in New York City is the Empire Mayonnaise shop in Brooklyn. The company, which gathered a foodie following by selling its artisanal mayos online—available in saffron, walnut, yuzu chili, and other flavors—has drawn the attention of Gothamist, MSNBC, the Daily News, TheDailyMeal, and New York magazine, among others. The current mayo craze is the continuation of a trend that started a few years back: In 2010, 36 new mayonnaises entered the marketplace, three times the number of mayos introduced the year before.
Hot Sauce—Literally and Figuratively
One of the fastest-growing industries in America is hot sauce, which has experienced 9.3% annual growth over the past decade. Frank’s Red Hot and other hot sauces have enjoyed robust sales thanks to changes to both American tastebuds and demographics: Hot sauces are particularly popular among immigrant groups.
The Condiment That’ll Get You Drunk
Some sommeliers are encouraging the idea that wine should be viewed as a condiment—because when it comes down to it, wine’s purpose is to be enjoyed with food and enhance food’s flavors. That’s what any good condiment is supposed to do. Wine has an edge on ketchup and mayo, though, because it provides the bonus feature of getting you tipsy.