More consumers are opting to prepare meals at home rather than dining out. A study found that 72% of Americans cook from home four nights or more per week in an effort to save money, eat healthier and waste less food (1). As more people prepare home-cooked meals, the demand for fresh groceries and healthy alternatives will rise. And because flavor is critical for great cooking, consumers are seeking out healthy, natural condiments, sauces and culinary oils to use in their cooking. Here are the popular cooking oils and sauces to keep up with your adventurous culinary customers and upcoming trends to get ahead of them.

OilsResearch shows that consumers are seeking healthy and organic cooking oils, including palm, soybean and olive oil (2). Olive oil is one of the most popular kinds of oil, predominantly used for cooking. Lately, unique types of oil made from algae, coconut, avocado, hempseed and many others have surfaced — so how do consumers know which one to opt for? Each has its benefits and ideal uses.

Olive oilhas many health benefits with its anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants, and is considered to be rich in healthy fats, perfect for cooking. Extra virgin oil undergoes less processing, ultimately having more health benefits because fewer ingredients are stripped away. It retains vitamins K and E and remains higher in antioxidants (3). It is ideal for dressing and marinating food. Refined olive oil has a higher smoke point compared to extra virgin olive oil and butter. Smoke point is how hot an oil can be heated before it begins to smoke and eventually burn and oxidize, making it detrimental to one’s health. It is great for sautéing and pan frying, but its smoke point is not ideal for deep frying.

Palm oilis gaining popularity but remains somewhat controversial. It comes from the fleshy fruit of oil palms, and when unrefined can have a different color, which is why sometimes you may hear it called red palm oil. Some studies have shown that palm oil can help protect brain function, reduce heart disease risk factors and can increase vitamin A levels (4). Palm oil also has a high smoke point, so it can be used in a variety of ways in the kitchen. The controversy surrounding palm oil is that since the demand continues to grow, environments are being destroyed to harvest palm oil. Consumers do not want to support what is sometimes referred to as “conflict palm.” There are now organizations working towards ethically sourcing palm oil to prevent this from continuing. One organization called Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) works to minimize the negative impacts of cultivation on the environment and communities in palm oil producing areas. Palm Done Right is an international campaign started by Natural Habitats — which produces organic and fair-trade palm oil — to educate consumers about what ethically-sourced palm oil looks like. The company supports farmers of palm and ensures environmentally sustainable practices to promote not only the well-being of the land but also to make sure farmers continue to have a crop to plant and harvest to support themselves and their families. Be sure to stock palm oils that have a Fair for Life certification to ensure it came from an ethical source.

Soybeanis another trending vegetable oil specifically used for cooking. It is extracted from soybeans and is also rich in healthy omega-3 fatty acids and polyunsaturated fats (5). Soybean oil is best for sautéing or marinating with its neutral flavor. As with other oils there are health concerns with using too much — so each in moderation is best with cooking. Although many soybean sources are genetically modified, brands do offer non-GMO soybean oil like Cargill, Catania Oils, Centra Foods, Kings Organic, Healthy Harvest and many more.

Coconut oilhas higher saturated fat content than other oils, so it is seen as less healthy by some. However, there is a debate surrounding the health benefits of this oil — some say it has positive health benefits, while others say it is overhyped and there isn’t enough research to support benefits. Although solid at room temperature, coconut oil has a higher smoke point compared to extra virgin olive oil which makes it good for sautéing and even baking, as a replacement for butter.

Avocado oiljust began gaining more popularity and is comparable to olive oil. Like olive oil, avocado oil is extracted from the fruit rather than the seeds. “Avocado fruit contains around 30% oil and it is extracted in a similar way to extra virgin olive oil” (6). Avocado oil has healthy fats like monounsaturated fats and a good level of antioxidants. It also has a high smoke point, above 400 degrees Fahrenheit, so it is ideal for frying as opposed to other oils (6).

Hempseed oilis a unique oil that has nutritional benefits, such as being high in omega fatty acids and protein. This oil works at lower temperatures and is best for using as a salad dressing or topping rather than for frying.

Sesame seed oilhas been used for centuries and has nutritional benefits like high calcium and magnesium. It has a low smoke point as well so it shouldn’t be used for cooking. It is best to use at the end of cooking to drizzle on top of dishes, tossed with veggies as a dressing or as a topper on dishes.

Flaxseed oilcan be used to prepare foods with its versatility. However, using too high a heat can actually form harmful compounds, so consumers do have to be careful. It is typically better to incorporate in already cooked foods, rather than to try and cook with it — this prevents loss of nutrients or any harmful compounds that can be made. This oil can be used in a similar way as sesame seed oil.

Algae oilis also used for cooking and rich in good fats. A TIME article states, “It looks and feels similar to canola oil, vegetable oil and other common cooking oils. The difference is in its fat.” It is ideal for cooking because of its high smoke point (7).

U.S. dietary guidelines recommend a small amount of oils every day to ensure the body is getting the fatty acids it needs and can’t produce on its own. The American Heart Association suggests choosing oils with less than 4 g of saturated fat per tablespoon and no trans-fat (8).

SaucesTraditional sauces and condiments typically have a lot of added preservatives and sugars, making natural brands ideal for the health-conscious foodie. Now that the nutrition facts label has been updated to include added sugar content, consumers are more educated than ever on what they are purchasing. Now consumers can see which natural sugars there are in a product as well as what isn’t naturally occurring — added sugars. While all brands will have to comply with this new label standard, it forces more conventional brands to rethink how they formulate and market their products. Consumers want cleaner, simpler ingredients they can pronounce. They want a sauce they can make at home but don’t have to.

The space is certainly diverse with lines ranging from barbeque sauces to tomato sauces, but they align in certain areas. For example, with lifestyle diets on the rise, more vegan sauces and condiments are hitting the market. More and more brands are launching vegan versions of popular condiments such as mayo, spreadable cheeses and an array of dressings and marinades. This trend will continue to grow, according to Organic Authority. They cite a study by Nielsen which shows an 8.1% growth in plant-based foods. “These sales spikes in vegan food mirror similar trends in organic food growth over the last several decades as consumers continue to seek out cleaner ingredients that are better not just for their health, but the health of the planet, farm workers, and in the case of plant-based foods, the billions of factory farm animals,” writes the Organic Authority (9).

Dave’s Gourmet, Inc. offer creamy hot sauces that are dairy-free and vegan, containing no added sugar, preservatives or artificial colors. Dave Hirschkop, president and CEO of Dave’s Gourmet, Inc. says, “Our creamy sauces truly add a whole new dimension to the culinary experience offering more versatility and convenience to the consumer who can enjoy using them on everything from pizza, burgers, sandwiches, tacos, to even as a salad dressing and dessert sauce… the possibilities are endless.”

This opens a whole new world to vegans who now have more plant-based and vegan products to choose from than ever before and they taste good. Consumers’ palates are changing as well. Every day staples like ketchup, mustard and tomato sauces continue to play a role in people’s lives, but specialty versions of those products are on the rise such as sriracha ketchup, and everyone is incorporating a wider range of ethnic flavors into their diets. Now we are seeing a surge in products like taco sauces, simmer sauces of Latin and South Asian varieties and spice blends to replicate flavors of specific regions and favorite ethnic dishes.

Dietary restrictions are also not going to stop people from experiencing their favorite flavors. The all-natural, gluten-free and low FODMAP brand FODMAPPED For You offers a variety of pasta sauces, soups, stocks and simmer sauces that are designed for those who may suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, forcing them to avoid foods heavily used in sauces like onion and garlic as part of a low FODMAP diet. FODMAPs are a family of sugars that are poorly digested and can result in irritable bowel symptoms (10). Their products avoid these certain sugars as to not trigger symptoms of irritable bowel disease. Some other foods followers of a low FODMAP diet avoid include fructose, dairy, artificial sweeteners and legumes.

Besides diets and personal tastes, consumers are thinking big picture and brands are taking notice. Hirschkop says traceability and transparency are extremely important in Dave’s Gourmet. To optimize traceability, the company has integrated a system to communicate, collect and file all information in their supply chain regarding product origin, quality and sustainability of each ingredient. “All of our product labels are being continually updated to reflect our transparency that will continue as new technology will soon make it even easier for us to communicate everything our consumer needs or wants to know before consuming our specialty food products,” says Hirschkop.

We often hear about savory options but sauces and condiments can be sweet too. Sweet topping trends like nut butter and chocolate spreads have an important place in people’s hearts so having vegan, dairy-free and ethically sourced options is important. Jen’s Zen, for example, offers different cocoa spreads made from coconut milk to provide dairy and gluten-free options. Another brand Once Again Nut Butter which is known for its nut butters and honey, recently launched a decadent hazelnut and cocoa spread called Amore. This is a more indulgent options that still puts into consideration the concerns of consumers.

“Our company is environmentally and socially responsible and this product is also all of those things,” says Gael Orr, communications manager for Once Again Nut Butter, based in Nunda, NY. “Our consumers wanted to have a butter that not only tastes amazing, but that they can feel good about their choices. Because in a sense, they are partnering with us through their purchase power. Our Amore product is Fairtrade certified, Non-GMO Project Verified, organic, and gluten free and made by employee owners that care tremendously about every aspect of what we do.”

The global sauces market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate between 4% – 4.5% over the forecast period of 2017 to 2023 (11). As this demand grows, consumers will see the natural products industry continue to meet these needs.WF

  1. Specialty Food Association, “Survey: Millennials Cooking at Home More in 2017,”
  2. Global Industry Analyst, Inc., “Vegetable Oils Market Trends,”
  3. Healthline, “Extra Virgin Olive Oil vs. Olive Oil: Which Is Healthier?”
  4. Healthline, “Palm Oil: Good or Bad?”
  5. Marie Dannie, “Is Soybean Oil Good or Bad for You?”
  6. Superfood Profiles, “Avocado Oil Versus Olive Oil for Healthy Cooking,”
  7. Markham Heid, “You Asked: Should I Cook With Algae Oil?”
  8. American Heart Association, “Healthy Cooking Oils,”
  9. Jill Ettinger, “Is Vegan the New Organic? Plant-Based Foods Top $3.1 Billion in Sales,”
  10. FODMAPPED For You,
  11. Business Wire, “Global Sauces, Dressings and Condiments Market 2017-2023 - Research and Markets,”
Published in WholeFoods Magazine August 2018