April 15, 2024


Aioli, Heinz ketchup, Chick-fil-A’s Polynesian sauce, and the iconic Big Mac sauce. From our refrigerator shelves to our favorite restaurants, sauces of all kinds are proliferating, and the Wall Street Journal reports that it might be too much for some consumers to handle. But are all these condiments a sign of deterioration in America’s culinary skills, or just an indication of the new way we prefer to eat?

Some might consider this proliferation of sauces a “shortcut” that takes away from the need to provide actual quality food on our plates. Indeed, one Illinois resident whose refrigerator has become overrun by her husband’s condiment habit told the Wall Street Journal she believes food should be enjoyable without the addition of a sauce. Similarly, a woman from North Carolina noted that her husband’s affinity for sauces led her to doubt her own cooking skills because he always put sauce on what she made.

“Not only is our [refrigerator] door filled, but we also use a shelf for the overflow,” she told WSJ. The husband, meanwhile, explained that it’s nothing personal—he’s just a big fan of sauces.

Americans are using more condiments than ever

On the other hand, the booming popularity of sauces has allowed consumers to try, and become more accustomed to, an array of global flavors. Condiments are spreading across U.S. restaurant menus faster than they were 10 years ago, market research firm Datassential tells WSJ, citing “chicken bacon ranch, Korean gochujang, and Mexican Tajin” as examples.

Just recently, and for the first time in its history as a restaurant chain, Subway has released bottled versions of its popular sauces: Sweet Onion Teriyaki, Roasted Garlic Aioli, and Baja Chipotle are now available at grocery stores. Meanwhile, avid fans of sriracha (a chili sauce that originated in Thailand) have bounced from brand to brand in hopes of recapturing the beloved flavor of Huy Fong’s original product.

McDonald’s has also done its best to take advantage of the sauce enthusiasm by not only introducing unconventional flavors like the limited-run Savory Chili WcDonald’s Sauce, but also expanding the use of its own proprietary Mac Sauce. For a limited time last year McDonald’s gave the people a rare opportunity to pair its Big Mac sauce with anything they wanted by making the sauce available in condiment cups, something the chain had never done before.

Personally, this author has been on the sauce trend since she was a child and is happy to say she has not grown out of it. Ketchup is a versatile condiment, and the fact that Heinz has stepped out of its perfectly successful comfort zone to dream up dazzling varieties like spicy ketchup and pickle ketchup only further proves that point. Sauces always make a meal more fun—even the slightly oily Avocado Verde Salsa packets that accompany every new item on the Taco Bell menu.

A version of this story was originally published on The Takeout.



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