Whatâs the difference between a gourmet condiment and a natural one? In terms of quality of ingredients, not much. In terms of flavor profile, a lot. From Crazy Uncle Jesterâs Afterburner Sauce, a habenero hot-fudge concoction that adds an extreme kick to deserts, to products offered by The Gracious Gourmet, including a fennel blood-orange tapenade and a balsamic four-onion spread, gourmet lines provide options that many natural lines canât match. With more shoppers looking to create restaurant flavors in their home kitchens, itâs the perfect time to expand your storeâs condiment offerings.
Quality of ingredients
âWe try to use as clean a manufacturing process and ingredients sources as mom would in her home,â says Jeffrey âBlack Bullâ Stevenson, founder of Crazy Uncle Jesterâs Inferno World, based in Dayton, Ohio, and a member of the Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band, Ohioâs only recognized tribal group. âWe control the manufacturing of our hot sauces from the sourcing of ingredients to the time they leave our dock.â
Traceability is often a hallmark of gourmet products. Manufacturers believe that transparency has benefits for both quality and food safety. âTraceability also ensures each product is an authentic expression of its region of origin,â says Mary Caldwell, marketing director for Food Match, a New York City-based manufacturer and importer of specialty Mediterranean foods, including the brands Divina, Barnier, Dalmatia and Olivista.
Many European nations rely on official European Union standards, such as Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication, as a means of ensuring product quality and authenticity. The Greek Kalamata olives used by Foodmatch in its tapenades, for example, are protected by a PGI. âThis confirms that the olives were grown in the appropriate region and reflect the chartacteristics and integrity of that region,â Caldwell says.
Some U.S.-made products carry similar designations. California olive oilâthe robust, fruity, extra-virgin oil used for dippingâmay carry the seal of the California Olive Oil Council, which requires three chemical tests and a human taste test.
âThereâs a lot of olive oilâlabeling fraud in the U.S.,â says Steven Dambeck, founder of Apollo Olive Oil in Oregon House, Calif. âThe seal is the best guarantee that youâre buying real extra-virgin, which is processed within four hours of picking for highest quality.â (For more on origin labeling. see âThe Right Placeâ)
Gourmet tapenades, chutneys and spreads often have unique flavor profiles and may require customer education. âThese products need to be showcased,â says Nancy Wekselbaum, founder of The Gracious Gourmet, based in Bridgewater, Conn. âThey make it easy for customers to entertain at home, but they donât belong next to ketchup and mayo. These are sophisticated formulations.â
Tastings, recipes and feature displays may be required to launch these new products in-store, but the investment can lead to high-margin success for retailers.
Mitchell Clute is a freelance writer and fan of fantastic flavors living in Ft. Collins, Colo.