You've probably heard about the viral fried chicken-sandwich battle going on right now, but did you know there's also a clash of the condiments?
The people behind one of America's most popular salad dressings seem to think so. For years, Team Ketchup and Team Ranch have apparently been duking it out for the title of "best condiment," and after a hard-fought battle, one side is now claiming victory — even though the numbers tell a slightly different story.
“Ranch is a mega-flavor in food that’s found across the store, where ketchup is really bound by its bottle in the condiments aisle,” said Jacquie Klein, director of the brand studio that oversees Hidden Valley marketing.
Ranch is now no longer just a salad dressing — it's basically a lifestyle. A 2017 study by the Association for Dressings and Sauces revealed that Americans use dressing, especially ranch, on much more than salads. Klein echoed this sentiment in her interview, sharing that a survey (which was provided to TODAY) from global market research firm Ipsos Omnibus revealed nearly 70% of ranch usage occurs outside the salad bowl. That figure is even higher for Hidden Valley Ranch's packet seasoning mix, ringing in at nearly 80%.
Consumers are increasingly turning to the flavoring to enhance pizza, french fries, popcorn and more.
Klein added that not only is ranch everywhere these days, it's also become a fun party phenomenon, saying, "We always love to see Hidden Valley Ranch fountains at weddings and mini-kegs at backyard barbecues.”
While ranch has been rising in popularity, ketchup sales have seen better days. According to analyst group IRI (as reported by AdAge), ketchup sales have been flat in recent years — except last year when they experienced a brief 6% bump.
But is ranch actually the most popular condiment in all the land? Earlier this year, Influenster shared an unofficial survey of the most popular condiments in all 50 states. They found that ranch reigned supreme in six of them. Ketchup outranked all other condiments in just one state, Pennsylvania. Mayonnaise, mustard and peanut butter were also top performers on the list.
But don't count ketchup out. It's always been a consumer favorite and is still bringing in $833 million a year, according to IRI. According to the most recent figures available reported in the New York Times, Hidden Valley products took in $450 million in 2017. While this figure doesn't account for other brands (or different ranch-inspired products like Cool Ranch Doritos), it's clear the dressing still has a ways to go.
Still, there's no denying ranch's cult following, and Hidden Valley is certainly capitalizing on the product's popularity. The flavor's growth is pretty impressive considering Hidden Valley's founder sold the brand to Clorox in 1972 for just $8 million. Ranch fans went wild when an image of a ranch-flavored Pop-Tart began making the rounds on social media this summer. It turned out to be a hoax, but thousands of fans were still begging Hidden Valley and Kellogg's (Pop-Tart's parent company) to make the collaboration a reality.
Now, the brand is embarking on a culinary tour across the U.S. to spread the creamy word.
After challenging small restauranteurs across the country to create their own ranch-inspired dishes, the winners will now get to feature their tasty treats at 22 different spots in seven cities. Buffalo chicken pizza with ranch, ranch fried chicken, ranch burgers, loaded ranch tater tots and bacon ranch mochi muffins are just a few of the specialties fans can expect on the tour, which starts this week.
At the end of the day, if you really can't decide between dunking your fries in ketchup or ranch dressing, there's always Kranch.