To elevate foods and add texture, think dips and spreads. With their delicious ingredients and wholesome taste, the toppings dress up lunches, brighten tailgating events and add pizzazz to parties.
And they sell well. According to Circana (formerly IRI), for the 52 weeks ending Sept. 2, 2023, dips and sauces sold $2.6 billion and spreads sold $955 million. This was a 2.5% and 5.1% increase, respectively, in dollar sales versus the same period one year ago.
“I think it is a growing product across the board, for any type of dip or spread,” says Ian Behm, president of Pine River Pre-Pack, Inc. in Newton, WI. “We are getting more and more inquiries from chains that want to add a different spread to their display.”
Why Sales are Strong
“Dips and spreads are the comfort foods people seek,” says Carl Cappelli, senior vice president of sales and business development at Don’s Prepared Foods in Schwenksville, PA. “Seventy-five percent of food retailers plan to increase space allocated for fresh dips and spreads.”
And the products have become a familiar staple of the American diet.
“I haven’t reviewed Nielsen data, but I think guacamole has gone from being an impulse buy 20 years ago to becoming more of a consistent staple today,” says Ardy Haerizadeh, senior vice president of sales and operations at Calavo Growers in Santa Paula, CA. “For a football game, even if there is no Mexican theme, you have guacamole and chips.”
Retailers carry a number of dips and spreads for consumers who desire healthy, tasty, convenient snacks and meal ingredients.
“All Yo Quiero! items are marketed as better-for-you items, found in the fresh, perimeter areas of the grocery stores,” says Jay Alley, co-owner and vice president of sales at Fresh Innovations LLC/Yo Quiero! in Rhome, TX. “We encourage consumers to leave the chip aisle to the chips and get their dips in the refrigerated, fresh sections.”
“Dairy dips and Mediterranean-inspired dips/spreads are in high demand right now and on a strong growth trajectory,” says Aimee Tsakirellis, executive vice president of marketing for Cedar’s Mediterranean Foods in Ward Hill, ME. “These dips are flavorful, convenient, complementary to one another and are being consumed as meals rather than snacks.”
Dips and spreads are strong sellers at grocery stores because of their versatility, too.
“Entertaining friends and family? Add it to a charcuterie board! Want a quick snack? Simply enjoy it with a cracker or pretzel,” says Behm of Pine River Pre-Pack. He says cheese dips can add flavor to mashed potato, soup and pasta recipes as well.
Variety of Influences
Retailers stock dips and spreads that are made of cheddar cheese, cashews, avocados, beans, chickpeas or garlic. The products can have a Latin, Mediterranean or rural American influence.
“We use Grade A Wisconsin Dairy products in our recipes. Real cheddar, butter and whey give us the high-quality cheese spread that we strive to make every day,” says Behm.
Pine River, founded in 1963, makes Cold Pack (20 flavors including Cranberry Cheddar and Smoky Bacon), Clean Label (five flavors), and Shelf Stable Gourmet Snack (nine flavors including Spicy Beer) Cheese Spreads. While Wisconsin Cheddar is the main ingredient, some varieties include natural cheeses like Swiss, pepper jack and Asiago.
Beyond cheddar cheese, a Canadian company makes spreads from nuts. SpreadEm Kitchen in Richmond, British Columbia, a new producer in the market, was established in 2015. The company whips up Cashew Cheese Spreads and Blocks in unique flavors including Cilantro and Pumpkin, Beet and Balsamic, and Jalapeño and Lemon.
When it comes to dips, retailers have a wide choice.
TOOM in Minneapolis, MN, mixes Lebanese Garlic Dips from garlic, lemon, oil and salt. The family-run company, founded in 2001, produces flavors including Pesto, Buffalo and Chipotle Honey. The dips are gluten-free, dairy-free, low-carb and free of artificial preservatives.
With its signature green lids, Cedar’s produces Hommus (17 flavors including Everything and Za’atar), Organic Hommus (15 flavors) and Tzatziki (five flavors). Ingredients are natural and organic.
Yo Quiero! provides a one-stop shop for many popular dips: guacamole, salsa, queso and bean. They’re packaged in round 8-ounce and 15-ounce containers — plus 4- and 6-count mini guacamole cups. The dips are mixed with fresh, top-quality avocados and veggies.
And don’t forget the cream cheese. Don’s 5-pound tubs come in 15 flavors including Honey Fig & Pistachio. Its small-batch, clean-label cream cheese spreads are ideal for making Nutella pancakes or salmon omelets.
Thus, chain stores and independents can select from a plethora of flavors and textures, when selecting dips and spreads for their customer base.
For marketing, grocery stores can emphasize product features, such as heritage and family roots.
“Cedar’s Foods markets its products by emphasizing our deep familial roots, showcasing authentic Mediterranean heritage,” says Tsakirellis of Cedar’s. It offers retailers visually appealing displays, interactive experiences, and strategic seasonal themes to connect consumers to the brand.
“A carne asada is a big family event, and one of the must-have items is guacamole. If you were in Mexico or you are Latino, you say we are having a carne asada, come join us — like we say we’re having a barbecue,” says Haerizadeh of Calavo Growers. Its guacamole is marketed in the dairy, deli, produce and/or meat section, depending on the retail store. The product can also be a hot dog condiment, chicken garnish or veggie dip.
Some retailers may wish to offer restaurant quality dips but with everyday pricing.
“Consumers are facing high food inflation. They want less expensive private label and dipping solution ideas every week, and for the holidays,” says Cappelli of Don’s Prepared Foods.
Trends in Dips and Spreads
Current trends include the “girl dinner” — a snack plate of small bites. These meals can be made swiftly and effortlessly, and dips and spreads are the perfect addition, says Tsakirellis.
Another trend is Taco Tuesdays at restaurants, which has helped push at-home consumption of nachos and quesadillas topped by guacamole.
Consumers often seek nutrient-rich, better-for-you dips. The trend is fresh ingredients and no preservatives.
“We look at traditional dips, such as bean dips, and create an innovative, fresh spin on a traditional favorite. Our bean dip is made with authentic, Mexican bayo beans and our tomatillo salsa. No fillers and nothing artificial,” says Alley of Fresh Innovations.
Pine River’s Clean Line Cheese Spreads cold pack line is free from preservatives and artificial flavors/colors. All of their products undergo HPP (high-pressure processing), which hinders bacteria from growing and allows an extended shelf life of one year.
“Over the years, we have seen a lot more interest in this type of product, especially with the more health-focused grocery stores,” says Behm of Pine River.
Calavo Growers also uses HPP. Its processing facility is 10 minutes from its fresh packing facility in Michoacan, Mexico. This allows it to receive fresh fruit into the guacamole facility within 24 to 48 hours after cutting. “A big part of making good guacamole is how soon you get the avocados into the plant and how well/correctly you ripen them,” says Haerizadeh.
Exciting New Products
Spicy foods and street foods have been making their way into dips and spreads, so retailers should aim to carry some hot flavors.
“Besides our new bean dips, we have launched a Mexican street corn elote dip, jalapeno pickled veggies and a new Chunky Spicy Guacamole,” says Alley.
Cedar’s has introduced two “hommus” flavors (Topped Organic Hot Honey and Topped Organic Grecian Golden Hour) and two new Labne Dip flavors (Sizzling Scallion and Feta & Onion).
“Mango Habanero is one of our newest flavors — it is a combination of sweet and spicy,” says Behm. The cheddar-based spread is mixed with jam for a smooth dippable texture. It won a first place at the World Dairy Expo and a first place at the U.S. Championship Cheese Contest this year.
At Don’s, Cheese Spreads (Tavern Cheddar, Caramelized Onion and Bacon, and more) are the newest innovations. “They are ideal for holiday gatherings, parties, game day, etc.,” says Cappelli.
Retailers will also note a focus on freshness.
Calavo Growers launched a new brand called AVOFRESCO at the IFPA in Anaheim, CA. The word “fresco” means fresh in Spanish. “It will never be frozen. We will be launching a whole line of avocado derivative products such as AVOBUTTER, AVOCREMA, AVOSALSA,” says Haerizadeh.
Best Ways to Merchandise
Effective merchandising is important for repeat business at grocery stores. Many specialty dips and spreads are refrigerated, so retailers often stock them in the deli section.
“Our cheese spreads are usually merchandised in the deli or specialty cheese areas. They are in the deli wall sections, in the cheese islands or in bunkers. Some stores do have our spreads in the dairy cases as well,” says Behm of Pine River.
Dips and spreads producers often work with retailers on ideas and presentations.
Cedar’s often merchandises its “hommus,” tatziki and spreads in the same set. “We often run TPR’s on the entire set to motivate consumers to purchase more, which ultimately drives incremental sales and higher basket sizes. Themed displays are another tactic that’s effective at grocery retailers, featuring favorite products and pairings for seasonal moments,” says Tsakirellis of Cedar’s.
“Our Yo Quiero! dips are merchandised in the deli section, together, to create the Ultimate Dip Destination. We encourage our retail partners to take one to two of each item category, to provide a great set that drives engagement at shelf,” says Alley. The company also provides trade deals that allow the retailer to encourage multiple purchases and provide trial opportunities.
Finally, Pine River’s shelf stable spreads can be cross-merchandised in the meat or liquor departments. “We also make a shipper for this shelf stable line that makes it very easy to pop up anywhere in the store,” says Behm.