Hidden Valley Ranch’s dressing takes on America’s favorite condiment. Sarah Nassauer joins Lunch Break to decode its ad campaign.
Hidden Valley Foods is after your burger, fries and wings.
A new thicker, creamier version of its famous Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing has arrived in a bid to get people to use ranch like they do ketchup.
Hidden Valley Foods’ new product.
The company isn’t making subtle comparisons. “The New ‘Ketchup'” proclaims the label. It is affixed to a “retro-style” ketchup bottle to signal, “hey, this is ketchup,” says Jon Balousek, vice president and general manager for the food, charcoal and cat-litter businesses at Clorox Co., which owns Hidden Valley.
The company hopes the topping and dip, called Hidden Valley for Everything, will be “as ubiquitous as ketchup on restaurant tables and in consumers’ kitchens,” says Mr. Balousek.
The idea hit when an executive watched his college-age daughter “bath her entire salmon in ranch dressing,” at the dinner table. The company suspected a specific product for this purpose might appeal to people, especially younger consumers, says Grant LaMontagne, senior vice president and chief customer officer for Clorox. (His daughter is the salmon eater.)
Americans already eat a lot of ranch dressing. It is the most often used salad dressing in the U.S. Consumers use ranch twice as often as other salad-dressing flavors like Italian and French and its popularity is continuing to grow, according to NPD Group, a market research firm.
About 15% of ranch dressing is used on foods other than salad and vegetables, says Hidden Valley. The most popular are chicken, potatoes (including french fries), sandwiches, chips, and pizza, according to NPD.
Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing will try to get people to use ranch like they do ketchup.
The company’s goal was to create a product that would be thick enough to form a rounded dollop on top of a hamburger and didn’t leave “just a wet wing,” after dipping, mimicking the thickness and stickiness of ketchup, says Mr. LaMontagne. The company won’t give details on the new, thicker recipe, but says the calorie count per serving is the same.
The term “ranch” refers to a dressing created by the owners of Hidden Valley Ranch, a dude ranch in California in the 1950s, says Hidden Valley. The dressing became popular and the owners started selling a dry seasoning version that could be shipped to customers. Clorox bought the brand and recipe in 1972, creating a shelf-stable bottled version and a dry seasoning version that is mixed with milk and mayonnaise. Today, ranch dressing and flavored foods are sold by companies from Kraft to Frito-Lay.
To get the new product on restaurant tables everywhere depends on a food-science breakthrough. Currently, Hidden Valley for Everything needs to be refrigerated after opening. The company is working on a nonperishable recipe, Mr. Balousek says.