Many foods have come under the spotlight for high levels of sugar and salt, but only recently has this health focus fully reached certain parts of the condiments category.
The latest target seems to be ketchup – with small companies scrambling to innovate in this area. UK start-up Wonderchup is one of those targeting this classic condiment. The Kent-based business has created a clean-label alternative to tomato sauce, spurred on by co-founder Elise Daly’s desire for a product that would be healthy for her children.
After selling 70 bottles in two hours at a market last year, Daly knew she was on to something.
Wonderchup’s ketchup contains 65% tomatoes – almost three times the 23% in Heinz – as well as ingredients like organic peppers, Aspall’s apple cider vinegar, rapeseed oil from Hill Farm, fennel, rosemary and cinnamon. There are also added vitamins like B6, B9, B12, D3 and E.
“The peppers were used to sweeten the ketchup, the apple cider vinegar curbs sugar cravings and the rosemary is good for your brain,” Daly tells Food Spark. “It’s a super concentrated dose of goodness. Everything in there has deliberately been put in there to make it healthy and we wanted to make it indigenous as well. Cinnamon is the only thing we get from overseas – everything else is from the UK.”
Heinz, of course, hasn’t been immune to this health kick as last year it launched a no added sugar and salt ketchup made with 80% less sugar and 97% less salt than the original flavour, which had been put through more than 1,000 taste tests across 14 countries. It contains no artificial sweeteners or other additives.
Daly also worked with Michelin-trained development chef Nicci Gurr to ensure the ketchup was “production proof” – to guarantee the ketchup could be scaled up outside a home kitchen setting. It is now being manufactured in glass bottles by The Condiment Company in Chichester.
With no added sugar, sweetener, fructose or salt, Daly also decided to impart umami and kokumi (said to add mouthfeel) flavour profiles into its ketchup to give it extra depth and flavour. But it was also a strategic move to create a ketchup that would be received well globally.
“It taps into the conversation about ethics in business, production and consumption to create a product that fits most people’s palates,” she explains. “It means waste is minimal, the product is more efficient and Wonderchup tastes the same as in the UK, China and Australia. I understand why Heinz makes different flavours for different nations, but I want us to be global condiment brand based on a global palate.”
Closer to home, Daly has big plans for the ketchup. It is already being used in local schools and four gastropubs, but she also wants the brand to target the NHS and mass catering. It is currently sold on Amazon, in a number of independent shops, Jempsons Supermarket and directly via its website.
Hoping to positively disrupt the condiments market, Daly acknowledges that the ketchup aisle is currently saturated and it’s a challenge to break brand loyalty – but she’s hoping that, in particular, targeting families will create that habit in children.
“I hope there is space for brands like us and to work with bigger brands to influence what they do,” she comments. “Obviously there is a big movement to reduce sugar and removing all the junk out is what I hope to do. Large companies have so much buying power that they have an opportunity to put real food in bottles.”
Wonderchup isn’t just sticking to ketchup either, with two chutneys expected to launch this year. One is scheduled to land in summer and one in time for Christmas and are being dubbed Wonder Chuppa Chutta Mama and Wonder Chuppa Chutta Papa. Both will champion ingredients to support gut and brain health.
Others are also targeting the content of ketchup. As Food Spark previously reported, Rubies in the Rubble released a ketchup that substituted 50% of the sugar for pear syrup, while Kidchup uses apples to make a sauce that is says has four times less sugar than the market leader.
Brands are also targeting other health areas, like new player Janda, which is launching in March with condiments that are free of dairy and eggs, while ScandiKitchen’s new jams include 55% fruit, as little sugar as possible and ingredients like lingonberry, which is said to help block weight gain.
So does Sparkie see more ‘better for you’ condiments coming down the pipeline?
With the ongoing governmental focus on sugars, I am expecting their scope to expand at some point. Likely not quickly due to the red tape involved, but obvious changes that may be enforced would limit the scope of a lot of these products.
To date, food manufacturers have tried skirting the new rules by using these alternatives to sugar, but as far as real nutrition goes, a sugar by any other name is still a sugar. A syrup made from pears would be high in fructose, which in some ways is worse than the standard glucose metabolically.
I previously predicted an increase in scientific pushback related to food fads and I can certainly see this being one of the battle lines. Understandably, this is difficult for food producers because consumers don’t tend to favour the legitimate sugar alternatives due to the unnatural perception.
For companies producing anything sweet right now, it’s a rock and a hard place situation where there are no real winners.