By Greg Gonzales
Not all condiments were created equal. Consumers increasingly seek alternatives to condiment cornerstones high in sodium or high-fructose corn syrup, or that fail to meet their specific health and diet needs. Producers have responded directly by releasing products that meet individual consumer needs, and some naturally healthy condiments need no alteration.
Of course, a healthy condiment isn’t necessarily the same item for everyone. “It’s more complex than most people think,” said Chrissy Weiss, a nutrition expert who serves as Director of Marketing and Communications at Culinary Collective. “We all are following different diets. Some have health issues, some are athletes, so it depends on someone’s needs individually. … Make sure the product falls in line with your own health goals.” Those goals might include non-GMO products, gluten-free, no high-fructose corn syrup, low sugar, low sodium or vegan.
There’s a condiment for every consumer need. Annie’s, Portland and Sir Kensington’s ketchups do away with fillers like corn syrup and artificial colors, and the organic tomatoes they use contain more nutrients and antioxidants than their non-organic counterparts. The Not Ketchup brand adds a paleo-friendly option to the mix with its fruit ketchups, available in specialty flavors like Blueberry White Pepper and Tangerine Hatch Chile. The winner of the free-from badge contest might have to go to Primal Kitchen for its take on mayonnaise, made with avocado oil. This gluten-free, dairy-free, sugar-free, canola-free, non-GMO spread made with cage-free eggs is packed with healthy fats and is paleo-friendly. Hampton Creek’s spread, Just Mayo, is also Non-GMO Project Verified, but brings mayo back to the vegan crowd by taking the eggs out entirely — in four specialty flavors, too. And consumers who want flavorful ribs without the sugar rush might try Dinosaur Bar-B-Que Sensuous Slathering Sauce. It’s a gluten-free and all-natural take on the tangy-sweet stuff, with only 154mg of sodium and 5 grams of sugar per serving. It’s not alone on the shelf, either. Tessemae’s All Natural BBQ Sauce contains only 2 grams of sugar and 125mg of sodium. It’s also gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and paleo-friendly.
“People are reading more ingredient labels these days to see if it’s just simple,” said Weiss. “Used to be a long time ago, we wanted everything fat free.” But these days, consumers know good fats are essential to a healthy diet, and can even lower cholesterol. Culinary Collective’s gluten-free Matiz Catalan All I Oli Garlic Spread, made from sunflower oil, garlic, lemon juice and salt, is high in good fats but dairy-free, low in sodium and sugar. Salsas, guacamole, hot sauces and low-sugar chutneys also make nutritious additions to healthy meals.
“A lot of people believe traditional foods made from scratch, made from high-quality ingredients, can be helpful,” said Weiss, adding that this attitude has been a given in the specialty food industry from the get-go. “We’ll be part of the solution, not the problem.… There’s a lot of products out there that are, honestly, just junk. They don’t add anything to consumers’ diets, and producers are starting to wake up to that. We’ll definitely see this continue.”