Photo: add1sun, Flickr
Ketchup may still be king of the condiments, but these days, hot sauce is what's really hot. According to a report by market-research firm Mintel International, sales of ethnic condiments in the U.S. had been chugging along since 2005, but beginning in 2008, when the recession hit and folks started eating at home more, they've been hot as a habanero, increasing 4.8 percent in 2009, with $1.3 billion in sales. Mexican condiments are leading the way in this salsa-powered surge.
That's no surprise to Gloria Cabada-Leman, owner with her husband of the Carolina Sauce Company, in Durham, N.C. Started in 2003, Carolina Sauce is an Internet food retailer specializing in condiments and sauces. She said hot and spicy is a predominant theme these days even in places like New England and the Midwest -- normally bastions of hot-pepper wimipiness.
The most recent trend, Cabada-Leman said, is adding jalapeños (the gateway pepper, she called them) or even habaneros to items that normally don't have them – like ketchup. "In just the past 12 months or so, it has had the greatest increase in sales," she said. "Customers trying it and then coming back as repeat customers."