Have you thought about your salad dressings?

November 25 2014

Whether it's a starter, a side dish or a meal itself, a big salad full of fresh veggies and toppings can be a tasty and healthy treat - especially if it's finished off with the perfect dressing. These days, savvy diners are looking for more than the old standbys of French, Italian and ranch dressings, and restaurants need to be fully aware of what their customers require - because taste is just one part of the equation.

According to Restaurant Central, many diners put a lot of thought into which salad dressing to choose - often because they desire a certain flavour or have health concerns that must be considered.

So what can restaurateurs do to ensure that they are offering a suitable selection of salad dressings? Here are some things to think about:

New flavours

Corporate chef Juriann Snellen says: "Consumers are looking for bold, clean flavours that stimulate and excite the ever-evolving palate." He believes that salad dressings should provide a punch of flavour through a variety of ingredients and says that the trend is for "sweet and savoury combinations created by different kinds of peppers, coconut in any shape or form, superfruits, maple and bacon."

Just some of the flavours that are on the rise include citrus - like lime, blood orange and yuzu - as well as ginger and spicy.

"In a recent Canadian Flavour Consumer Trend Report from Technomic, one-third of respondents reported that they are more interested in trying new flavours than last year," explained corporate chef Kira Smith. She added: "This could certainly be an area of exploration for the salad dressing category."

Region-specific flavours are also on the rise. "The current focus includes Middle Eastern flavours from Persia, Morocco and Lebanon, as well as Latin flavours from Brazil, Chile and Peru," Snellen says. 

"We will see an adaptation of authentic ingredients and dishes either in a fusion format or with a slight change to make it more accessible for the North American palate," she explained, adding that spicy coconut, Thai vinaigrettes, creamy chimichurri dressings and harissa vinaigrettes are all salad dressings to watch out for.

Classics never go out of style

Ingredients like poppyseed, sherry and mustard will always be popular - even though consumers show interest in new options. Yvan Coupal, owner of Salades Sensations in Montreal, says that herbs like mint, dill and cilantro remain top choices. "The same goes for sundried tomato. And the popular classic dressings such as creamy Italian and Caesar are still strong," she explains.

Healthy options

As diners become more health-conscious, restaurateurs need to be prepared for the various dietary concerns that exist - from low-fat, low-sodium or low-sugar diets to gluten sensitivities and vegan or vegetarian lifestyles.

There are many ways to deal with the array of requirements that you may be faced with. For example, one recent trend sees Greek yogurt being used as a substitute for mayonnaise. This is a great way to reduce calories and cut out unhealthy fats from a salad dressing, while also boosting the amount of protein being consumed.