Dips and Spreads Ready for Celebrations

International foods and spicier flavors lead the way.

Bob Johnson

After all this time eating in pandemic isolation, the final weeks of 2021 and the early months of 2022 could offer an opportunity for the deli to make a statement with dips and spreads suitable for social gatherings.

Deli dips and sauces brought in more than $550 million in the quarter ending April 18, 2021, according to the Madison, WI-based International Dairy Deli Bakery Association’s (IDDBA) What’s In Store 2021, and spreads accounted for another $231 million.

But if people feel that progress managing the pandemic has finally made traditional social gatherings safe, there may be room for significant growth.

“We’re looking for a good season as people get together again for the holidays and the Super Bowl,” says Greg Klein, chief marketing officer at Lakeview Farms, Delphos, OH.

Lakeview Farms is a leading manufacturer of fresh and convenient dips, desserts and specialty products that started in 1988 with one customer and a few employees that has grown to offer a variety of spreads and dips under the Lakeview Farms, Fresh Creations, Rojo’s, Salads of the Seas and Tribe labels.

Klein observes that plant-based proteins are trending and adds that dips and spreads with a kick in the flavor department are doing well.

“Spicier flavor profiles are tending to do better,” he says. “That’s in both plant- and protein-based dips.”

Some of the new spicier flavors are coming from blends of more than one cuisine to add a kick to sauces.

“A hot new trend in the world of condiments is melding ethnic flavors with current offerings,” says Judy Christensen, research and development technical supervisor at Silver Spring Foods, Eau Claire, WI. “For example, Sriracha mayo or Korean barbecue sauce.”

Silver Spring Foods is a family-owned business selling horseradish, mustard and other specialty sauces for more than 90 years.

These flavorful spreads can add a whole new dimension to sandwich boards and trigger purchases of multiple items.

“Anything complementary to build a flavorful and interesting sandwich or charcuterie board, like mustards, aioli, horseradish products, fig jams and pepper jellies etc. are all offered in supermarket delis,” says Eric Rygg, president of Silver Spring Foods. “Merchandising dips and spreads in the deli allows shoppers to build a bigger basket of goods, and a bigger ring for the deli department, by offering complementary flavors and products to deli meats and cheeses. “Everything Bagel seasoning seems to be a hot new flavor trend and is showing up in a variety of different food items including our newly-released Everything Bagel Mustard.”

Some of the enticing spreads are imported European foods with traditions that are centuries old.

“We have a few premium spreads including Melchorri Truffle Spreads, which we are promoting this season, says Sue Lopez, corporate communications and marketing manager at Atalanta’s DeMedici brand, Elizabeth, NJ.

DeMedici, which offers foods from Southern Europe and Argentina, is a subsidiary of Atalanta, which began importing Polish hams 75 years ago and has grown steadily to become a major supplier of imported foods from Europe.

“While not a traditional ready-to-use spread from the jar, our truffle sauces can be used to create decadent flavors associated with truffles at a reasonable price,” says Maria Roemer, senior business development manager for DeMedici. “Authentic Black Summer Truffles (Tuber aestivum Vitt) are combined with classic mushrooms and seasonings to create a sauce that can be added to a wide variety of ingredients to create spreads.”

Truffle sauces are a unique item, and uses are limited only by the exercise of culinary imagination.

“One can add a spoonful of any of the Truffle Sauces with a spreadable cheeses like fresh ricotta or crème fraiche to create an indulgent base for crostini or dips,” Roemer suggests. ““Our sauces can also be used alone, as a base for pizzas or added to fresh egg pasta for a flavorful truffle mushroom flavor.”

Make your own compound butter spread with a scoop of white truffle sauce, Tuber Borchii Vitt, added to your favorite unsalted butter. Or add to mayonnaise for a fancy Truffled Mayonnaise for French fries.”

The New Mainstream

Three dips with international origins have become such category leaders that these are not thought of as being in the mainstream—hummus, salsa and guacamole.

Hummus has enjoyed extraordinary growth as a leading entrant into the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food category and as a healthy and earth-friendly source of plant-based protein.

Americans spent nearly $800 million on hummus from retail stores in 2018, according to the Moscow, ID-based USA Dry Pea & Lentil Council and the American Pulse Association’s CEO Tim McGreevy, compared to just under $200 million in hummus sales a decade before and only $5 million in the mid-1990s.

Back in 2009, only 12% of Americans regularly ate hummus, according to Los Angeles-based Precision Reports, but fast forward to 2016 and the number swelled to 25% of the national population.

Plant-based dips, including hummus, increased an impressive 135% sales growth from 2017 to 2019, according to IDDBA’s What’s In Store 2021 but hummus may have peaked.

“Hummus has kind of not kept pace with the growth of other spreads,” Klein says. “It appears to have plateaued this past year, but we don’t know what will happen after the pandemic. Plant, protein and queso dips are doing well.”

Like other blips on the radar screen during the pandemic, all bets are off as to whether hummus has reached a plateau, but some consumers may be looking elsewhere to satisfy their garbanzo craving.

“The time has come to think beyond hummus and falafel, and even chickpea pasta,” according to Whole Foods’ The Next Big Things: Top 10 Food Trends for 2021.

“Rich in fiber and plant-based protein, chickpeas are the new cauliflower—popping up in products like chickpea tofu, chickpea flour and even chickpea cereal. That’s garbanzo-bonkers.”

But in its Global Hummus Market 2021-2027 Maharashtra, India-based Precision Reports forecast that global hummus sales would increase from $806 million in 2020 to more than $1 billion in 2027.

Business analytics firm IBIS World, with offices in New York, Los Angeles, Europe and Australia, estimates that pre-made salsa production already exceeds $1.4 billion and anticipates the market will continue growing.

According to U.S. Census and Simmons National Consumer Survey data, 218.13 million Americans used store bought salsa in 2020, and this figure is projected to increase to 224.64 million in 2024.

The global Guacamole market was valued at $683.5 million in 2021, and Analytics 360 forecasts a compound annual growth rate of 7.4% from 2021 to 2027 in its newly published report Global Guacamole Market Analysis 2021-2027.

North America is the largest market, with a share of about 83%, followed by South America and Europe.

Until social gatherings become common once again, there may be a trend toward smaller dip and spread packages in the deli.

“There are a few more individual serving packs, but to say it is a trend would be an overstatement,” Klein says.

The pandemic seems to have inspired the use of smaller packages of dips and spreads, which may or may not be the beginning of a trend that lasts as we become more social in our eating again.

“Smaller cups or tub sizes can offset the challenges of finding space in this high demand department,” says Christensen.

The Diverse Suppliers

Many of the largest suppliers hedge their bets by offering two or even all three out of the hummus, salsa and guacamole categories.

Sabra became well-known as a leading player in bringing hummus into the mainstream rebranded as a dip and spread company that also offers a line of guacamole.

Lakeview Farms is also positioned to supply more than one of the fast-growing dips because major hummus maker Tribe is among its subsidiaries and can also offer a line of salsas under its Rojo’s label. Like many of the major dip suppliers, with Tribe Hummus and Rojo’s line of salsas, Lakeview has seen consumer tastes shift.

MegaMex Foods, LLC is a partnership between Herdez del Fuerte and Hormel Foods, which also offers kits to transform its chili beans into a cheese dip. 

The deli can expand the space for celebratory dips and spreads by using adjacent space in other departments that also display these items.

“Being located in the deli department takes some of the brainwork out of your meal planning,” says Christensen from Silver Spring Foods. “Items found in the deli round out your meal and enhance your dishes. Limited shelf space is always a concern for supermarket deli departments, but many can effectively utilize nearby racking systems, end caps or meat/cheese case top areas to merchandise complementary dips and spreads to add convenience for deli shoppers.” DB


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