Mustard has always been seen as the perfect, zesty accompaniment to the all-American hot dog. But now it’s proving to be hot in an altogether different sense.
Namely, as the “it” condiment embraced by the foodie crowd.
Consider that gourmet brands are releasing mustards reflecting a broadening range of styles and incorporating a seemingly endless array of flavors. Among the varieties now on store shelves: Dusseldorf-style mustards, fruity mustards and the super-coarse Tin Mustard (it’s got a texture reminiscent of caviar, say fans). And mainstream manufacturers are getting in on the act, too. French’s, the best-selling brand that’s long been known for its classic yellow variety, is test-marketing Creamy and Light “white” mustard (“an alternative to mayo,” a spokesperson explains). And Kraft Foods-owned Grey Poupon has not only brought back its beloved “Pardon me, would you have any…?” TV ads, it’s also mounted a social media campaign connecting quality mustard with a kind of refined, jet-setting lifestyle.
It’s not the kind of thing you could do with, say, good ol’ Heinz 57, Grey Poupon promoters insist. “I think mustard is more universal than ketchup…It’s more international,” says Sara Braun, a Kraft marketing director.
Put it all together and mustard equals money: The condiment raked in U.S. sales of $508 million in 2012 – an 11% jump since 2007, according to Mintel, a market researcher. True, mustard doesn’t quite measure up to ketchup in this country (ketchup sales hit $743 million in 2012).
But most food industry insiders and experts believe that mustard is positioned to grow in popularity not only because it’s so global (the condiment, which can be traced back to the Romans, is popular in just about every culture and country, from Brazil to Great Britain), but also because it’s naturally healthy. As a new French’s ad campaign touts, “Farmers make our mustard zero calories, not scientists.”
Mustard is also versatile: Sure, it’s the classic topping to the hot dog that’s enjoyed at the ballpark or summer barbecue, but it can just as easily be paired with items ranging from roast beef to soft pretzels or used as a key ingredient in casseroles, dressings and other foodstuffs. Grey Poupon even suggests a turkey gravy for the holidays incorporating its mustard.
In short, it’s the condiment of the moment, says Alice Price Becker, the restaurateur behind the New York eatery Alison 18.
“Mustard is the new butter, the new mayo,” says Becker. “We are finding our guests asking for mustard for their bread and their fries.”
National Mustard Day on Aug. 3.