From pizza to salsa, fries and popcorn: the pickle is the great taste of summer

In May, Meg and Maddie Antonelli, a mother-daughter duo who review new food products on TikTok, filmed themselves in their car in a Florida grocery store parking lot. Meg held up a container of powdered dill relish from Sam’s Club; Maggie, a bag of Goldfish Original crackers.

“Goldfish, if you’re watching this, I think we need to create this flavor,” Maddie said as her mother bombarded the bag with pickling seasoning for a video that would later be posted on her TikTok channel, floridamomof3. After testing the result, Maddie declared, “This is unreal.”

While Pepperidge Farm, the maker of Goldfish, has yet to create the Antonelli flavor, pickle seasoning is increasingly showing up in everything from chips and popcorn to sauces, salads and even pizza. Although some pickled spiced foods have been around for decades, the versatility of the flavor and its virality on social media have helped the products flourish.

The pickle flavor hits all the right notes for people, especially those under 40, who are looking for bigger, bolder, brighter and more tart flavors, food and beverage researchers said. Pickle relish is versatile: It can add sweetness and tartness, and it’s subtle enough to add other flavors, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, an executive at IRI, a market research firm.

“It’s a tartness that appeals to a lot of consumers, especially younger ones,” said Bret Thorn, senior food and beverage editor for Nation’s Restaurant News. “And I don’t think people are going to say, ‘I’ve tried a lot of bold flavors, now I’m going to go back to the milder ones.'”

For decades, Country Home Creations, in Goodrich, Michigan, has sold pickle mixes made from a family recipe. “There are definitely a lot of pickle enthusiasts out there,” said Stephanie Jones, its vice president. In the past year, she said, the company has had to increase production by 30 percent to meet demand.

The big snack brands have also introduced pickle-flavored products. Blue Diamond Almonds launched a version of Spicy Dill Pickles in March 2020, featuring the tangy, tangy flavors they say consumers are looking for in snacks. Frito-Lay makes pickle-flavored chips for its Lays, Doritos and, recently, Ruffles lines. Trader Joe’s, which sells a dill pickle falafel, says its dill pickle relish mix sold out shortly after hitting shelves in May.

DiscoverFresh Foods introduced a dill-flavored pickle dip four years ago, but it didn’t sell as well as the company hoped, Haskell said. The product was pulled from shelves for six months while the company modified the recipe to replicate the taste of fried pickles, a popular snack in restaurants and food trucks. Ranch flavor and panko breadcrumbs were added, and the sauce was reintroduced in July 2020. Haskell said the tubs sold out quickly at stores like Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco.

“It has taken on a life of its own,” Haskell said. “We have people who love pickles and can’t keep this out of their fridges.”

Tonio Discusi of Angela’s Concessions, which sells food at fairs, said that over the years, he’s received dozens of requests for pickle pizza from customers. He and his wife, Corina Discusi, experimented and finally came up with a recipe with white sauce, mozzarella, pickle chips and ranch dressing. He featured it in 2020 at the drive-through food fair events he attended on the East Coast.

Customers loved it and ordered extra cakes to go. “I didn’t make this up,” she said. “But I mastered it.” Last year he made pickle pizza a permanent menu item.

Social media has helped fuel the rise of the pickle flavor. Companies like Grillo’s Pickles, which makes traditional pickles and a fresh sauce (Pickle de Gallo), have used social media to start collaborations with larger food brands. In April, Utz made a limited release of Grillo fries, and in June, Ithaca Hummus followed with a Grillo-flavored sauce. (Grillo’s said about 600,000 bags of Utz chips have been sold, and the company plans to make the chips again in October for Costco.)

“There are so many ways to have fun with food,” said Eddie Andre, brand director for Grillo’s Pickles.

What would that fun future look like for pickled spices? Mr. Thorn, the food editor, believes that the flavors of kimchi and Japanese pickled vegetables will be the next big thing in the world of snack foods.

Florida TikTokers Meg and Maddie Antonelli will continue to sample all pickle options. They make pickle pizzas at home twice a month, slather burgers with pickle sauce and accompany pasta with dill pickle relish.

“I wish this was always trending,” said Meg Antonelli, “because I love pickles.”

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