By Jordan Valinsky, CNN Business
Tabasco Brand is releasing a bottled dressing, a first for the privately owned company, as it seeks to expand its appeal to those who might be intimidated by too much heat. It’s also the first time the brand, which is based in southeast Louisiana’s Cajun country, has tapped into social media for a new product.
“TikTok made us do it,” according to Lee Susen, Tabasco Brand’s chief sales and marketing officer. Susen told CNN that the dressing emerged from a conversation the company had with Christina Najjar, better known as Tinx, a TikTok star with more than 1.5 million followers. Tinx, he said, is on a “mission to normalize hot sauce as dressing.”
A superfan of the brand, Tinx has been posting her adoration for the hot sauce on her TikTok for the past few years. Tabasco Brand took notice and crafted the new dressing with her and landed on “something we thought and both agreed was an excellent representation of a way to normalize hot sauce as dressing,” Susen said.
The result? A smooth blend of Tabasco green jalapeño sauce, avocado and herbs. The limited time offering goes on sale Wednesday on Amazon for $9.99 for a 12-ounce bottle. Susen envisions that salads are the “primary application” for it, but knows social media users will have their own ideas.
Susen said that household penetration of hot sauce is “relatively low compared to other condiments,” with ketchup, mayonnaise and mustard outpacing it in sales. Turning the hot sauce into a dressing could help undercut the idea that it’s to be used only in small doses.
“There’s a tendency to think about hot sauce as only an agent of heat,” he said. “For us, we think of it as a multi-dimensional source of excitement and interest. Part of this is education and another part of it is expanded application.”
Tabasco Brand is also facing growing competition from more established brands, like Cholula, and newer brands like Yellowbird Sauces. That, according to Neil Saunders, managing director of GlobalData, is posing problems for the aging brand.
“Many of these have captured the attention of consumers in a way that Tabasco Brand, which is a more traditional label, has not,” Saunders said. He added that since hot sauce uses are limited compared to other condiments, Tabasco Brand has to innovate to keep growing.
“They will hope that their hot sauce dressing provides a new avenue and converts some new customers to the brand. It also addresses new meal occasions,” Saunders told CNN. Using Tinx, Saunders suggests that the brand is “targeting a much younger demographic than its core products traditionally address.”
Helping the storied brand remain relevant keeps Susen up at night, he admitted. He thinks broadening the sauce’s appeal will help.
“To have lasted that long, something at the center of the brand continues to work,” he said. “For us, it’s we can’t rest on our laurels and can’t allow history to be the only guide. We have to be consumer centric in the approach or we always risk irrelevance.”
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