Can ranch dressing conquer the table?

Hidden Valley wants its thick, creamy dipping sauce waiting for you wherever you sit down to eat. Should Heinz be worried?

By Apr 9, 2012 8:28PM

Image: Family at diner (© IT Stock Free/SuperStock)Condiments are big business -- worth $5.6 billion a year in the U.S., according to Bloomberg Businessweek -- and Hidden Valley wants its flagship ranch dressing, now available in a thicker formula called "Hidden Valley for Everything," to have a more prominent spot at the table.

How prominent? With the "Everything" campaign, the company wants ranch to be "as ubiquitous as ketchup on restaurant tables and in consumers' kitchens," Jon Balousek, head of the food, charcoal, and cat-litter division of Hidden Valley owner Clorox (CLX), tells The Wall Street Journal. The labels on the new "retro-style" bottle even call the product "the new 'ketchup'." Is this initiative anything more than hype?

Here's what you should know:

Where did ranch dressing come from?
Supposedly, the mixture of buttermilk, sour cream, yogurt, minced onion, and garlic powder was first concocted at Hidden Valley Ranch, an actual dude ranch in 1950s California. Clorox bought the brand and recipe in 1972. And now, with Hidden Valley for Everything, the company can talk up another "noble creation myth," says Hamilton Nolan at Gawker: Clorox executive Grant LaMontagne apparently formed the idea after watching "his college-age daughter 'bathe her entire salmon in ranch dressing.'"

What is Hidden Valley's game plan?
Hidden Valley for Everything -- a thicker, creamier ranch "topping and dip" -- and its new bottle are supposed to offer consumers the convenience of ketchup and the taste of ranch. "You can dollop it on a burger and it'll stick to a French fry better than the dressing would," Clorox spokesman David Kargas tells Britain's Daily Mail.

Don't Americans already put ranch on everything?
Ranch is the nation's most popular salad dressing, used twice as often as other flavors, according to market research firm NPD Group. And plenty of Americans use ranch on chicken, french fries, pizza, sandwiches, and chips. In fact, Hidden Valley says 15% of ranch is used on items other than salad and vegetables. That's a number they want to increase.

Is ketchup really the condiment to beat?
Ketchup is versatile and ubiquitous, but it isn't the best-selling condiment in the U.S. That would be mayonnaise, with 400 million containers sold each year, according to market-research firm SymphonyIRI Group. Next is salsa (271 million jars), and then ketchup (256 million bottles). Heinz (HNZ) Ketchup makes a tempting target for Hidden Valley, with sales of $278 million a year, but Unilever's (UN) Hellmann's sells $401 million worth of mayo and even sales of Frito-Lay's Tostito's salsa beats the revenue from Heinz ketchup by $6 million a year.

Is aiming for ranch domination a good idea?
Maybe for Hidden Valley, but not for Americans, says Gawker's Nolan. "There's no easier way to add thousands of calories of pure fat to your diet every day, with no added vitamins, while successfully causing the rest of the world to retch in disgust at our collective resignation to a life of riding motorized scooters through the grocery store." There is an opportunity here, says JT at So Good, but, for ranch to become ubiquitous in restaurants, Clorox will have to come up with a non-refrigerated version, with a list of ingredients that will force me to dig out my high school chemistry textbook.

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Tags: CLX
Apr 10, 2012 9:44PM
I don't get it...I've never even had ranch until I moved to new mexico. And that last paragraph is right, adding 1000's of calories of fat is something the US should stop doing. I prefer mustard, vinagrette dressings, green chile, salsas, marinara, and worchestershire sauces on my foods. But then again, my wife and I are both under 200 lbs. Ranch, mayo, sour cream, alfredo, 'country gravy', etc. aren't even in our kitchen.
Apr 10, 2012 9:41PM
The problem with ranch is most restaurants will just make their own dips, even chains will have their own brand shipped to all locations.  Even though it is a growing trend, hardly any restaurants make their own ketchup, so no there's no end to the red bottle on the table going anywhere.

Apr 10, 2012 9:39PM

Ketchup is the best, plus Heinz is Gluten free.

Ranch is not right on a hot dog, hamburger, or fries.

Apr 10, 2012 9:37PM
what idiots put ranch on everything? seriously. it's more ridiculous than putting ketchup on meatloaf and potato chips.
Apr 10, 2012 9:23PM
Apr 10, 2012 9:09PM
Apr 10, 2012 9:07PM
i cannot stand ranch, but i also hate ketchup on everything too. ketchup is good for french fries, hamburgers and hot dogs and thats pretty much it. people who pore on the ketchup on their scrambled eggs makes me wanna puke!! when it comes to salad dressing its all about the bleu cheese
Apr 10, 2012 9:02PM

All the ranch ketchup debating aside the real scary point this article makes is all the chemicals you would need to make a non refrigerated ranch sauce available. im with Tej GO MUSTARD!!!!!! no calories, and delicious!


Apr 10, 2012 8:51PM
We always have 2 large bottles of ranch on hand . Our most favorite way to use it is on our baked potatoes, the other is instead of butter and milk in our mashed potatoes we put a good amount of ranch and whip them up, you don't need anything else.
Apr 10, 2012 8:51PM
Apr 10, 2012 8:50PM
I have a bff who puts ketchup on everything its super gross looking but some things help you gag down that nasty school food so sometimes its a major need.
Apr 10, 2012 8:46PM
Apr 10, 2012 8:41PM
Listen to the National Ketchup Advisory Board.  Ketchup is the only appropriate condiment for burgers and fries.  Ranch dressing is edible on salads if you thin it out with some vinegar.  Otherwise ranch dressing can be used for book repair, dry wall taping and a hundred other uses.  I believe I read somewhere that the spanish conquistadors observed the locals eating their victims with a sauce of tomatoes and vinegar (ketchup to you folks out there) mmmm.  So dig right in and don't spare that savory red delight.  ketchup I celebrate and salute thee!
Apr 10, 2012 8:24PM
Sorry Ketchup all the way, for me.. I have never liked the white stuff, (cept tartar). Ill pass on ranch, blue cheese, cottage cheese, mayo, sour cream, any day.  Ranch is not the holy grail of dips, people trust me. =)
Apr 10, 2012 8:20PM
I don't like ketchup, haven't since I was about 10.  When I was young I liked dipping my fries in tartar sauce, then I moved on to mayo, now I like ranch.  Granted I wouldn't put ranch on a hot dog,  that would be nasty.  I wouldn't use ketchup either.  Eating healthy is great, but when I decide to slack, I'd choose mayo or ranch over ketchup.  
Apr 10, 2012 7:32PM

No way will Ketchup lose it place to ranch dressing.

Apr 10, 2012 7:11PM

never ranch dressing is awful. so pasay ok

people grow up and try other sauces and ingredinents

Apr 10, 2012 6:58PM
Both are MSG bombs, which is a neurotoxin.
Apr 10, 2012 6:28PM
I am sure their products are good, however, if they continue to load their dressings with MSG, I will not touch them.  Nor will THOUSANDS of other paying customers who are likewise ALLERGIC to that chemical.  Bring on the bleu cheese!
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