Ingredient Hot List: Seasonings and Sauces

October 30, 2020
Seasoning Spice
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If variety is the spice of life, then variety in spices, seasonings and sauces makes life’s sustenance well savored. Flavors are bringing spices, seasonings and sauces to life in all kinds of food and beverage products from savory ice creams to barbecue-tinged cocktails. And with younger consumers – especially Millennials -- seeking out adventurous flavors and more people experimenting during the cooking renaissance in the pandemic era, such enhancers are likely to keep booming. Read on to learn about hot flavors featuring the unique tastes of seasonings and sauces, from botanicals to ethnic spices and more.

From Bland to Bold

When it comes to food, seasonings and sauce ingredients help impart the flavor, making all the difference between bland and bold. In fact, these flavor components span ingredients for spicy, sweet and umami experiences. Often these flavor trends spark in dining, and translate into the retail space, giving product developers a great opportunity to bring unique and adventurous tasting flavors straight to grocery shelves -- and consumers’ homes.

Consumer Stats

  • 68% percent of sauce users in the UK look for sauces that replicate restaurant dishes at home. - Mintel

  • Younger consumers are particularly interested in seasonings and sauces from what they perceived as exotic cuisines, such as Asia and North Africa.

  • Millennial and Generation Z age groups tend to eat more plant-based foods that can be paired with seasoning and sauces to offset or complement the base flavors, and are interested in vegan seasonings and sauces with ethnic flavors.

“There’s a principal need for brands to leverage flavor and ingredient innovation to elevate and evolve dips/sauces from an afterthought or accompaniment to the foundation of a great meal.” - Mintel

“Sauces need to make more unusual flavors more accessible. As a solution, flavor profiles could be called out on pack more and communicated more clearly, e.g. smoky, aromatic, as the leading communication on pack rather than naming unfamiliar ingredient.” - Mintel

Everything Bagel

These days, Everything Bagel seasoning can be added to just about, well, everything. Given the fact that this flavor started with the everything bagel, it makes sense that spreads, including cream cheese and hummus, were the early conduits for this potent seasoning blend. The combination may vary here and there, but the Everything Bagel mix tends to be a combination of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, garlic, onion, pretzel or kosher salt and pepper.

Consumer Sentiment

Even before it started showing up on top of everything from seafood to popcorn, more than 40% of consumers tried the Everything Bagel flavor and about half were interested in trying it, according to findings from Datassential.  In a recently-released recap of the top 20 most beloved products of 2020, the discount grocery chain Aldi called out one brand’s Everything Bagel seasoning blend as the best pantry staple of the year.
“Everything seasoning is a new take on a traditional flavor combination. Traditionally used to flavor the ‘everything’ bagel, the blend of poppyseed, sesame seeds, garlic, and onion has moved into a range of food categories, including chips, flatbreads, pretzels, seafood, and even cheese.” - Mintel

Products of Note:

Everything But the Bagel Dip & Spread from La Terra Fina contains no artificial flavors, colors, preservatives or gluten and is sold in a 10-oz. pack. 46% of consumers said that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Brunckhorst’s Boar’s Head Everything Bagel Hummus is a kosher certified product that is free from GMOs, cholesterol and gluten, contains 0g trans fat per serving, and is low in saturated fat.

37% of consumers indicated that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Trader Joe’s Everything but the Bagel Seasoned Smoked Salmon is pre-sliced and ready-to-eat, available in a 4-oz. package.

35% of consumers said they would likely or definitely try this product.

Juniper Berries

Juniper berries are often used with gamey-meats and incorporated into marinades, sauces and casseroles. As a botanical ingredient, juniper berries provide a citrus-y, intense flavor to dishes and food products, from plant-based foods to mocktails and cocktails. In culinary applications, it is not the actual berry but the seeds or cones from juniper trees that are used to enhance taste and aroma. Although most people are familiar with the taste of juniper berries in gin, the flavoring can brighten other alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and enliven desserts and confections.

Consumer Sentiment

In its roundup of flavor and spice trends for 2020, The Spice House pointed to juniper berries, along with hibiscus flowers and pure orange extract, as examples of the growing trend of incorporating more botanical ingredients in recipes and products.
“Luckily for chefs and food developers, adding beauty to dishes, drinks and food products can also mean a touch of complex sweetness. Edible flowers like lavender and hibiscus and botanicals like juniper, maple blossoms and balsam have a uniquely sweet flavor profile and add freshness and color that can’t be rivaled.” Ripples, “The Ultimate List of 2020 Food and Beverage Trends,” 2020.

Products of Note:

Ithaca Soda Co. Root Beer is a hand-crafted product with a rich, creamy body and gently spiced flavor profile, courtesy of Panama bark extract, hops, whole star anise, juniper berries and whole vanilla beans blended with all natural cane sugar and soda of the Finger Lakes. 56% of consumers responded that they likely or definitely would buy this product.

Williams-Sonoma in collaboration with Chef Charlie Palmer Chardonnay Braising Sauce for Chicken is described as a vibrant blend of Chardonnay, juniper barriers, cardamom and thyme, made from fresh local ingredients. 9% of consumers said they would likely or definitely try this item.

Pederson's Natural Farms Uncured Dry Rub Bacon is made using humanely raised and vegetarian fed pork along with seasonings including juniper berries. 34% of consumers said they would likely or definitely try this item.

Garam Masala

As demand for Indian food heats up, so is interest in garam masala, a popular Indian spice blend made with cinnamon, peppercorns, coriander, cumin seeds, mace and cardamon pods that have been roasted together and ground.

Consumer Sentiment

Indian cuisine was recently dubbed a space to watch by Technomic, which also noted that 34% of consumers have tried Indian food and find it to be good-tasting and exciting. With consumers dabbling in global dishes at home in lieu of travel, they’re seeking authentic ingredients, including garam masala  Garam masala may not appear on a lot of menus in the U.S, but it’s jumped almost 50% in mentions in the past four years, according to Datassential.
“There is no hard rule to a garam masala recipe, as the ingredients vary according to region and chef. The term just means ‘spice blend.’ and like with many spice blends, there is plenty of potential for customization.”  Datassential, “Flavor of the Month: Garam Masala”, as published in Food Management, March 2020

Products of Note:

Knorr Taste of India Garam Masala Seasoning Blend is a 100% natural product that contains ginger, sweet cinnamon and fragrant cardamom, and is said to add a warming flavor to many Indian dishes like meat and vegetable curries.

Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Tikka Masala Vegetarian Simmer Sauce is described as a tomato-based sauce with garam masala, and is free from gluten. It retails in a 16-fl. oz. pack.

33% of consumers said they would likely or definitely buy this product.

The Great American Turkey Co. Spicy Masala Turkey Breast Strips contain a marinade of olive and sunflower oil, lemon juice and seasonings, including garam masala.

27% of consumers indicated that they would likely or definitely buy this item.

Wild Fennel

As its name suggests, wild fennel is a form of fennel that is foraged in the wild, hence giving it some culinary cache from a storytelling perspective. Wild fennel plants have feather-like foliage, thick stems and a large-rooted bulb, and when ground into a powder or used in pollen form, provide a licorice kind of flavor with undertones of citrus and mint. It pairs well with other root vegetables as well as with salty bacon, creamy fresh cheeses and many kinds of seafood, and can be pureed to give some anise-like zing to sauces.

Consumer Sentiment

Wild fennel is one of a group of wild botanicals that is garnering notice on menus and showing up in ingredient lists. THP, a marketing agency in Toronto, included wild fennel as one of the “uncultivated botanicals” that are among the biggest flavor trends.
“The pollen pairs well with pork, fish, lamb, chicken, shrimp and potatoes; use it as a rub ingredient or in a marinade or glaze. It blooms beautifully in sauces, pesto and dressings, where the honey and citrus notes can dazzle without overpowering.” -Feast Magazine

Products of Note:

Columbus Craft Meats Finocchiona Fennel Salame is described as a tender salame with wild fennel seeds that is made from pork raised without antibiotics and added hormones. 34% of consumers said they would likely or definitely buy this product.


Sumac, when it grows in the wild, is known for its brilliant fall color. Dried ground berries from the sumac flower lend culinary brilliance to food dishes and products, imparting a tangy flavor to dressings, seasoning blends, and sauces.

Consumer Sentiment

Sumac is starting to enter trend prediction lists and to be added to foodservice recipes and retail products. Nearly a quarter (23%) of people are familiar with sumac, according to a report in Nation’s Restaurant News. Awareness is highest among those in the GenX age demographic and those who live in the Midwest, where the plant commonly grows.
“In 2020, sumac could be next (ingredient) to make the leap. The venerable spice is showing up on vegetables, in appetizers and main courses, both in wwMediterranean-focused restaurants and elsewhere.” -  Forbes Magazine

Products of Note

Private Selection Mediterranean Herb Hummus from Kroger USA is topped with olive oil and a hint of citrus, herbs and seasonings including sumac.

25% of consumers said they would likely or definitely buy this product.

I Am A Weed Sumac Tea is a sumac flavored tea described as tart and dry with hints of lemon and wild berry. 18% of consumers responded that they would likely or definitely buy this product.

Haven's Kitchen Golden Turmeric Tahini, made with ground sumac as an ingredient, is suggested to be used as a marinade for chicken and fish, to drizzle on roasted veggies and to dress salads and slaws.

26% of consumers said they would likely or definitely buy the product.

Aleppo Pepper

Although this pepper was originally grown in the Syrian city of Aleppo, strife in that area has spurred new crops to be planted in Turkey and even in parts of the U.S. The Aleppo pepper is often used in North African and Middle Eastern dishes like dips, salads and as meat seasonings. It offers a rich flavor that balances a lightly spicy taste and a hint of fruit.

Consumer Sentiment

The Aleppo pepper combines consumers’ love of peppers with their interest in authentic ethnic flavors, including those from the Middle East. Nation’s Restaurant News reports that the use of Aleppo peppers on restaurant menus has grown 208% over the last four years.

Products of Note

Les Filles Fattoush Mild Aleppo Pepper is described as the real icon of the Middle Eastern cuisine, possessing a rich and unique flavor. This seasoning product can be used on fish dishes, white meats, vegetables, spreads, yogurt or eggs and retails in a 50g pack.

Trader Joe's Honey Aleppo Sauce is described as a sweet, savory, tangy and slightly spicy all-purpose sauce with unique earthy and cumin-y undertones that can be used as a marinade, dipping sauce, a finishing sauce or a salad dressing. 25% of consumers said they would likely or definitely buy this product.

The Takeaways

At a time when consumers are exploring different cuisines while cooking more at home and ordering takeout, product developers can meet consumer demand by offering the world of seasoning and sauces through their flavor choices. Seasonings and sauces can come to life in the right flavor, and brighten dishes in a multisensory way, from botanicals derived from wild plants to peppers sourced from interesting regions of the world, allow people to experiment at their pace and enjoyment. And with today’s adventurous consumers, the possibilities seem endless.

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