Stephen Romero, the firm’s vice president sales, told FoodManufacture.co.uk at its headquarters on Avery Island, Louisiana that as global food trends became more powerful, consumers increasingly preferred food with more distinctive flavours.
“As consumers experiment with food and spices, the palate develops to enjoy more bold and flavoursome foods,” said Romero. “After that people don’t want to go back to bland and tasteless food. People say: I enjoyed that, what else can I use?”
Social and cultural factors have always exerted a strong influence on demand, said Romero. “We sell more Tabasco to Japan than any other country around the world. The reason was post World War II, food was not freely available.
Pasta and pizza
“Pasta and noodles were cheap and consumers were looking for a condiment to spice food up. That niche was filled by Tabasco as the Japanese gravitated towards its use of pasta and pizza.”
Tabasco sales in Japan – with its population of 127.8M – now total about 100,000 bottles a year. That is about 2.5 times sales in Germany – with its population of 81.7M.
The association between pizza and Tabasco sauce in Norway is also proving a popular combination, he said.
Consumption rates in most markets are about the equivalent of an eight of an ounce mini bottle per person, so there is plenty of scope for growth.
European sales of Tabasco pepper sauces vary according to national temperament and cooking traditions.
“The French and Italian markets are very provincial, in that they prefer their own cuisine. But other European nations are much more adventurous,” said Romero.
“The Netherlands – with is tradition of Indonesian cuisine is very adventurous with Tabasco in recipes.”
Also, German consumers, a key target for export sales, seemed very inclined to experiment with chilli and spices in foods.
But Romero claimed many consumers around the world enjoyed Tabasco sauces without knowing it, since chefs often incorporated them in restaurant menus.
The company’s flagship brand Tabasco Pepper Sauce, together with other products in its portfolio, are supplied in quantities from 30ml sachets to 50 gallon drums.
Deliveries to food manufacturers accounted for about 5% of total sales.
Cajun and Creole cuisine
Meanwhile, the US ethnic food segment – dominated by Cajun and Creole cuisine – registered strong growth of 26% between 2007 and 2012, according to market intelligence firm Mintel.
McIlhenny Company’s president and ceo Tony Simmons said that the US hot pepper sauce market had benefitted greatly from soaring demand for chicken or buffalo wings.
Romero added that the American food offering was becoming increasingly sophisticated, which was helping to drive demand for pepper sauces. “Years ago, US consumers had a choice between hamburgers or chicken. Today the range is much more sophisticated, spanning proper Mexican food, Tex-Mex, Thai, and Chinese. But not just Chinese – Szechuan food for example.”
Watch out for more information on Tabasco’s place in the burgeoning US ethnic food market next week on FoodManufacture.co.uk.
More information about Tabasco exports is available in this video interview with Romero here.