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Sprucing up sandwiches with spreads

Canadians are kicking their choice of condiments up a notch.

When it comes to spreading things on bread, Canadians are in the midst of a new flavour frenzy.

Several areas of the condiments and sauces category have recently seen impressive growth in Canada: garlic spreads and honey have each seen an 8% jump in dollar sales during the 52 weeks to Nov. 15, according to Nielsen; and sweet spreads have risen 7% in the same period. Even though it’s a tiny subcategory in comparison, sandwich spreads have grown 27%.

So what’s getting Canadians so pumped about things they can use in sandwiches? It boils down to a yearning for better- quality products that come in new flavours.

“The sandwich is evolving,” says Brad Smoliak, chef and owner of Kitchen by Brad, a culinary studio that hosts cooking classes and events in Edmonton. “You could get away with a cheap spread a while ago,” he says. “Now people want to know what’s in it. People are becoming more knowledgeable about food and flavours than even five years ago, and are willing to pay for better ingredients.”

READ: Sandwich consumption is strong in Canada

Even mammoth restaurant chains are going far beyond basic mustard and mayonnaise these days. Smoliak points out that the new chicken sandwich at McDonald’s, for example, uses a creamy pepper sauce.

How is this mass exposure to different flavours translating into grocery sales of condiments and sauces?

“The growth in spreads is really in the flavour variety,” says Svetlana Uduslivaia, a senior research analyst at Euromonitor. “Products that have zesty and spicy tastes and ethnic variations are doing well.”

Montreal-based manufacturer Wafu makes a line of mayonnaise that ticks those boxes. Its Mayonaizu Japanese mayos come in “Sesame,” “Wasabi” and “Spicy” varieties and sell in stores across Ontario and Quebec, such as Metro and Provigo.

The Wasabi bottle plays up the fact that this is a sandwich-friendly spread: it features a colourful, highly stacked sandwich on the packaging. Thai, sriracha and Indian tikka masala are also popular flavours in general, says Uduslivaia.

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When Toronto-based Lynch Foods tried to get its products into Walmart, the chain initially refused, saying Lynch’s honey mustard product looked great, but that there were already others like it on Walmart’s shelves.

What Walmart asked for was “true innovation in the category,” says Joe Davidson, director of sales and marketing at Lynch. So the company developed a new line of sauces called Lynch Gourmet Selection. The line’s unique flavour varieties include “Sriracha,” “Chipotle” and “Creamy Horseradish.”

The funky new flavours paid off: Walmart signed on for four of the line’s five flavours.
The line was picked up elsewhere, too. Sobeys’ recently updated planogram for all Ontario stores includes nine new sauces, seven of which are Lynch’s.

Neal Brothers, based in Concord, Ont., is also on the funky flavour train. It released new varieties of mayonnaise this past fall, including “Sriracha,” “Truffle” and “Lime.” They’re available in Sobeys and many independent grocers and natural foods stores across Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada.

Neal Brothers’ mayonnaise line also includes a “Classic” variety, thanks to another trend: while ethnic and offbeat flavours are hot, traditional varieties are also holding their own.

READ: Take that, Nutella! Hershey launching Reese Spreads

Take J&D’s Baconnaise, a bacon-flavoured spread manufactured by Seattle-based J&D’s Foods. Co-founder Dave Lefkow says, “Our volumes were up 20% last year , which has been driven by sell-through primarily. This was surprising to us, as the trend is going the other way in the U.S. Sandwich spread sales are down 10% year-over-year for us.”

While Baconnaise is found alongside other spreads and mayonnaise in stores such as Safeway and Sobeys, Lefkow thinks cross merchandising in deli would boost sales.

Understanding the variety of uses for a product can help when planning for cross merchandising, says Jillian Tryansky, marketing co-ordinator at Neal Brothers. “Our customers don’t just use our mayos on a sandwich,” she says. “They use them in guacamole, as sushi toppers and on chicken and fish.”

Over at Bruno’s Fine Foods’ Avenue Road location, in Toronto, deli manager, Carolynn Bookalam, uses the store’s sandwich deli to showcase new flavours. “Sometimes I’ll offer a new taste, like hot and spicy mustard, a horseradish or barbecue sauce for people to try. They’ll go check it out afterward.”

Even though some customers experiment with new flavours, she notes that most of them ask for traditional mustard and mayo on their sandwiches.

Seems sometimes the oldies really are goodies.

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