Natural Foods Merchandiser

Sell those sauces

Consumers are searching for value in their food purchases, but that doesn't mean retailers should write off high-end sauces, condiments and marinades. As shoppers trade eating out for home cooking, consider promoting this category.

"We've seen an increase in sales for most of our sauces because people find the value in what we're offering," says Anthony Dipietro, of DeLallo, a manufacturer of high-end pasta sauces, oils and vinegar based in Jeannette, Pa. "People are looking for health value and flavor profile, and they don't want to forsake quality to trade down on cost."

"In the last decade, consumers have been going to restaurants and developing sophisticated palates," says Jeff Weidauer, vice president of marketing for Vestcom, a Little Rock-based company specializing in shelf-edge marketing for retailers. "Customers have sophisticated palates, but they don't know how to cook, which means a tremendous opportunity for supermarkets to provide information and education."

A new definition of value
Although shoppers are comparing grocery purchases to restaurant meal prices, it's only one part of the value equation. They're also looking for high-quality and organic ingredients, free of monosodium glutamate and high-fructose corn syrup.

"Value also means being able to choose a product made in a way that is socially and environmentally responsible," says Aimee Sands, marketing director for Annie's Naturals, the Napa, Calif.-based maker of barbeque sauces, marinades and dressings. "Retailers can also sell consumers on versatility." She suggests using barbeque sauces in stir-fries, creamy dressings and meat marinades, so each product can do double duty for the home cook.

Ways to pump up sales
"An average shopper has 10 or 12 recipes in their head, but is always looking for new ideas to bring home," Weidauer says. He suggests using a shelf-edge marketing tool to communicate a new idea on using sauces and condiments. This offers shoppers instant information. "For example, shoppers can visit a website or even text a number and instantly receive a recipe," he says.

Weidnauer also suggests cross-promotions on related items—pasta and sauces, for example, or meats and marinades—using discounts or money-back-guarantees to close the deal. At DeLallo, Dipietro says, "We partner with retailers to provide information, whether it's information sheets or POS materials, and create recipe ideas and pairings with our pastas."

Sands suggests in-store demos for sauces with recipe cards, so shoppers can try their own versions at home. "Cross-merchandising in other sections," Sands says, "such as featuring marinades alongside grill accessories, or condiments with organic meats, is one of the best ways to entice consumers to pick up a new item."

The higher price points of many natural and organic sauces, marinades and condiments mean higher dollar sales for the retailer, and consumers seem more than willing to trade up—as long as they have the right information on how to use these flexible and flavorful products.

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