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Don't overlook the mustard: Small, environmentally pleasant and health-conscious corporations are taking spices

July
15, 2020

Read 6 min

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

The grill is no longer the domain of the meat eater. With so many brands making their own spin for vegan burgers and hot dogs these days, it's possible to grill completely meat-free.

However, there is one product category that, despite its importance for a decent summer cookout, is easy to forget: spices and toppings. But what is a pasta or potato salad without mayo or a fresh garden salad without something tasty? The numbers prove the importance of the market for spices, dressings and sauces: the sector is currently valued at around $ 129.5 billion worldwide. The sector is forecast to grow to $ 158.6 billion by 2025.

In recent years, the spice industry has already shifted in favor of vegetable consumers. Vegan Mayo options, which were once only offered by one or two health food brands, are now increasing the "regular" Mayo ranges in grocery stores, and even mainstream brands are offering their own version. While regular old ketchup and mustard are generally vegan by default, there is plenty of room for the category to expand toward plant, non-GM, biological, and other environmental and nutritional problems.

Of course, the original Vegenaise from Follow Your Heart is still strong and offers organic, soy-free, low-fat and other varieties for different nutritional needs and interests. They even make gourmet-inspired varieties like pesto mayo and chipotle mayo, as well as tartar sauce for your vegan "crab" cakes. And in recent years alone, the rock star brand Eat JUST has been credited with bringing vegan mayonnaise to the masses. They also offer a Chipotle Mayo if you want to increase your burger even further.

Related: Why the Next Technological Revolution in Alternative Meat is Chicken

Vegan looks creamier

Until recently, the enjoyment of creamy dressings was out of reach for those who avoid dairy products. Thanks to the advent of new brands, vegetable eaters now have more choices than base oil and vinegar. Plant Junkie produces a whole range of vegan ranch-style dressings that are also nut, soy and gluten free and are not only accessible to vegans but also to allergy sufferers. And the flavors range from the original ranch to the turmeric and pepper ranch, so that both classic and gourmet dishes are possible. Plant Junkie also makes a range of mayo-like spreads from vegetable oils like avocado, and offers a natural, non-GMO alternative to the standard vegan mayos that you can find in the store today.

Another dressing innovator is Imagine Vegan Cafe, a restaurant in Memphis that successfully sells homemade dressings online and in limited retail stores across the country. They only produce two products, a vegan ranch and a vegan "honey" mustard, with the focus on what is probably the biggest gap for vegans in the dressing aisle. Your dressings are labeled with GMO and low sodium labels, and the ingredients are primarily things you'll find in a normal eat-in kitchen – so that picky consumers feel comfortable.

Of course, some of our traditional toppings and dressings are made with minimal plant-based ingredients, like many of Silver Spring's horseradish and mustard products. Filling a tofu-up with spicy horseradish is a classic and absolutely vegan-friendly way to give your grilled lunch a spicy kick. And of course, some new brands find ways to innovate with traditional herbal coverings and side dishes. Cleveland Kitchen works with local farmers and composts their waste, giving their core business a sustainable and community-friendly aspect: sauerkraut and dressings. They make classic and creative varieties like curry herb and whiskey dill, and even their creamy dressings (like caesar and roasted garlic) are vegan-friendly. And if you are even more interested in your herb, Atlantic Sea Farms sells beet herb, which is made from sustainably grown seaweed with beets and carrots. Also noteworthy is the sea chi, a kimchi made from seaweed and cabbage.

Related: The protein bar game becomes vegan

Variety in the spice rack

However, the focus is not on basic American staple foods. Ben to Table is a subscription box service that delivers supplies and has fully plant-based subscription options. Sauces and spices are an important part of their boxes – which come from small manufacturers around the world – because their focus is on presenting international cuisine. Previous offerings included Aji Amarillo from Peru, Calabrian chilli oil and Spanish Romesco.

Even modest ketchup grows beyond its traditional iteration sweetened with corn syrup. Sky Valley Foods produces a range of Organicville ketchup and mustard, all of which are vegan and, as the name suggests, made from organic ingredients. Even if consumers crave the classic taste they grew up with, brands like Organicville offer an option that meets their ethical and health concerns without sacrificing the familiar taste. And – perhaps not surprisingly, if you've read so far – Organicville also offers a range of dressings to top your green or macaroni salads (or, as you know, whatever you want), including a dairy-free ranch and a thousand islands. Another brand that is reinventing the old favorites is Primal Kitchen, which produces a variety of organic spices, including vegan mayos. Of particular note are the ketchups, which are not only free of corn syrup with a high fructose content, but are also completely unsweetened.

And although it appears that Big Ketchup has blocked the spice market, these companies are just a few examples of the opposite. Recent reports suggest that the market for spices, dressings, and sauces is actually very fragmented and is made up of many smaller players rather than being dominated by some big ones. With consumers continuing to focus on vegetable and allergy-friendly products that have transparent supply chains and natural ingredients, it seems inevitable that more and more small, innovative brands will continue to break into and disrupt the cookout. The world of what we squeeze and distribute on our burgers, sandwiches, hot dogs and salads is only getting bigger.

Related: How the humble chickpea snacks and dessert markets stormed

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