How condiments went from yellow mustard and bland ketchups to a US$181 billion tasty industry


For decades, the tables of Canadian homes and roadside restaurants across the country have been decorated with a familiar assortment of colorful bottles, with little fuss about what they contained.

“Most Canadians grew up with this yellow stuff in a squeeze bottle,” says Jeremy Kessler, owner of Kozlik’s Canadian Mustard.

Toronto-based Kessler’s mustard company sells more than 36 varieties of mustard because customers are willing to try versions of the condiment that are influenced by palates around the world, and also just for fun.

“Most of us can’t buy a Ferrari for fun,” says Kessler, but “many of us can buy a pot of mustard for fun.”

Not to mention the taste.

“What most people don’t understand is what a good mustard is – mustard has a heat, a nasal heat. It doesn’t go down your throat,” says Kessler, whose family business uses the same recipe since the creation of the company in 1948.

Options are more prevalent these days.

An argument can be made that mustard is our contribution to the world of condiments. Canada’s largest producer and oldest mustard mill is GS Dunn Dry Mustard Millers in Hamilton, which has been around since 1867, according to Luis Rivera, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing.

But Canada is just one player in an evolving global industry that will be worth US$181 billion by 2025, with a new group of food entrepreneurs creating flavors that honor food traditions. , share memories of home and embrace new ideas on how to use traditional condiments.

Jannine Rane, co-founder of Zing, a line of condiments and seasonings influenced by flavors from around the world, says her company “isn’t trying to ‘reinvent’ family recipes. Versatility is key for us, so we don’t design pantry shortcuts that can only be used in one kitchen or one kitchen style.

Rane and co-founders Anush Sachdeva and Kiran Singh grew up enjoying Parsi, North Indian and Indochinese cuisine, all of which are reflected in Zing’s condiments. Its Hakka-ish chilli crisp is infused with cloves and cardamom that evoke Indochinese cuisine, Mogambo’s spicy garlic spread and a number of seasonings, including a version of milagai podi from southern Italy. India, known as gunpowder spice.

But Rane encourages a break with tradition in the way the Zing is used and says customers have reacted by using the products in unexpected ways, including on pizza and ice cream.

Rane’s business and others like her are thriving as more people cook at home during the pandemic and support businesses that align with their values.

“Sustainable capitalism, social responsibility and identity politics have intersected to make room for small food businesses,” says Krishnendu Ray, chair of New York University’s food studies department and author of The Ethnic book. Restaurateur.

Items that were once staples are now turning into specialties the same way cheese and wine have become specialty items, Ray says. “On a relatively small scale…it happens to tea, coffee, marinades and spice blends.”

He attributes this to a shift in how generations approach food. First-generation immigrants focused on home-cooked, hard-to-replicate foods, while second-generation immigrants turned the food they grew up on into staples for the sake of nostalgia and income.

As an international student from Malaysia, Vanitha Nair was unable to find sambal, a chilli condiment used throughout Southeast Asia when she attended college in California. She had to ask her family members back home to make it for her and then pay high fees to ship it overseas.

Nair had searched the internet to buy sambal in North America without success. Finally, in 2014, she came across Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen, a Brooklyn-based company that sells Malaysian-style sambal.

It was such a relief to find out that this sambal existed

“It was such a relief to find out that this sambal existed. At the time, I had waited 20 years for this product to appear in the United States,” says Nair. “I expected it to be spicy for an American palate, but when I tasted it, I immediately told my wife, ‘this is the real thing.'”

Auria Abraham, the founder of Auria’s Malaysian Kitchen, realizes the power of her condiments to connect people to a sense of belonging.

“Sometimes as women we think of cooking as what we do for our family, what we do at home, but I started to see there was value in that,” says Abraham, who adds that not all sambals are the same; every household and street vendor in Malaysia has a different recipe.

Abraham also makes kaya, a coconut jam that is a Malaysian breakfast staple. She points out that it’s not a cooking ingredient, but like many condiments, customers often find new, unwitting ways to use it.

Gloria Allorbi says customers have told her they use Gloria’s Shito, a Ghanaian condiment made from Scotch bonnet peppers, on oatmeal, even though it is traditionally used to accompany fish or meat.

“I wanted to create something that connects me to my homeland, which is often not found in my local grocery store,” says Allorbi, who missed the shito she grew up eating as a child in Ghana. “I’m not the first person to sell shito. However, I am the first to use shito to bridge cultures by sharing shito outside of my immediate Ghanaian community.

Chutatip (Nok) Suntaranon, owner and chef of Kalaya, a Southern Thai restaurant in Philadelphia, opened his restaurant in 2019 to honor his mother. Suntaranon is a James Beard nominated chef and has been awarded for the integrity of his Southern Thai cuisine.

Suntaranon says that in Trang, the province in southern Thailand where she is from, every household has its own seafood sauce and Thai sauces known as Nam Jim can add amazing flavor to a flat. She recommends using relishes like Nam Prik Kapi as a dip for raw or cooked vegetables, and considering vegetables that accompany a Thai dish as a Thai crudité. “Vegetables are to be enjoyed and help to refresh a spicy salad.

Chilies are the key ingredient in many popular condiments, and vendors say they can bring a bland dish to life.

“Once you start using chili peppers in your life, there’s no going back. And while it’s not the case for everyone, it can be a gradual path that will lead you to stronger peppers,” says Julien Fréchette, founder of La Pimenterie, a hot sauce brand based in Montreal.

La Pimenterie flavors include Bourbon Barrel Aged Hot Sauce, Cranberry Hot Sauce, and Hot Sauce that features a combination of citrus, mango, and ant. Fréchette says the ants have a citrus flavor that complements salads, fish and chicken.

I approached the creation of hot sauces as if it were a creative and artistic work with an aromatic universe of its own

“I approached the creation of hot sauces as if it were a creative and artistic work with an aromatic universe of its own,” explains Fréchette, who changed careers from documentary film producer to making hot sauce. full time.

For Chitra Agrawal, founder of Brooklyn Delhi, working with food has helped her connect with her family, take pride in her culture and express her identity as an Indo-American.

Agrawal has created a line of Indian staples that include achhars, chutneys and simmered sauces that are stocked by major grocery stores in the United States and Canada.

“Food unlocks stories. I spent a lot of time with my parents and family learning family recipes and each time there was a little family story woven together,” says Agrawal. “For those in the second generation , there is a cultural gap that separates us from our parents and I have found that food is a way to bridge that gap.”

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2022

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