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 condiments from Sam’s Club; Maddie, a bag of Goldfish Original biscuits.
“Goldfish, if you see this, I think we need to make this flavor,” Maddie said as her mom bombed the bag of pickle seasoning for a video that would later be posted on their TikTok channel, floridamomof3. After tasting 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 all kinds of foods, from chips and popcorn to dips and salads and even pizza. Although some pickle condiments 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 acidic flavors, food and beverage researchers said. Pickle seasoning is versatile: It can add sweetness and sourness, and is subtle enough to add other flavors, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, a manager at IRI, a market research firm.
“There’s a tanginess that appeals to many consumers, especially younger ones,” said Bret Thorn, senior food and beverage editor at Nation’s Restaurant News. “And I don’t think people say, ‘I’ve tried a lot of bold flavors, now I’m going to go back to milder flavors’.”
For decades, Country Home Creations in Goodrich, Mich., has sold pickle mixes made from a family recipe. “There are definitely a lot of pickle enthusiasts,” said Stephanie Jones, the vice president. In the past year, she said, the company has had to increase production by 30 percent to meet demand.
Major snack brands have also introduced products with pickles. Blue Diamond Almonds released a spicy dill pickle version in March 2020, with the tart and spicy flavors they say consumers are looking for in snacks. Frito-Lay makes pickle fries for its Lays, Doritos and, more recently, Ruffles, lines. Trader Joe’s, which has a dill-cucumber falafel, says the dill-cucumber spice mix sold out soon after it hit shelves in May.
DiscoverFresh Foods introduced a dip flavor with dill four years ago, but it didn’t sell as well as the company expected, Mr. Haskell said. The product was pulled from the shelves for six months when the company reworked the recipe to recreate the taste of fried pickles, a popular appetizer at restaurants and food trucks. Ranch flavor and panko breadcrumbs were added, and the dip was reintroduced in July 2020. Mr. Haskell said the dips have sold quickly at stores such as Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco.
“It’s taken on a life of its own,” Mr. Haskell said. “We have people who love pickles and can’t keep this out of the fridge.”
Tonio Discussi of Angela’s Concessions, which sells food at fairs, said over the years he received dozens of requests from customers for a pickle pizza. He and his wife, Corina Discusi, experimented, eventually landing on a recipe with white sauce, mozzarella, dill pickle chips and ranch dressing. He introduced it in 2020 at the drive-through food fair he attended on the East Coast.
Customers loved it and ordered extra pies to go. “I didn’t make this up,” he said. “But I mastered it.” Last year he made pickle pizza a regular menu item.
Social media has helped drive the pickle flavor boom. Companies like Grillo’s Pickles, which makes traditional pickles and a fresh salsa (Pickle de Gallo), have used social media to start partnerships with major food brands. In April, Utz arranged a limited release of a Grillo’s potato chip, and in June, Ithaca Hummus followed with a Grillo’s flavored dip. (Grillo’s said about 600,000 bags of Utz chips were sold, and the company plans to make the chips again in October for Costco.)
“There are so many ways you can have fun with your food,” said Eddie Andre, brand director for Grillo’s Pickles.
What might the fun future of pickle condiments look like? Mr. Thorn, the food editor, believes the flavors of kimchi and pickled Japanese vegetables will be the next big thing in the snack world.
Me and Maddie Antonelli, Florida TikTokers, will continue to try all the pickle options. They make pickle pizzas at home twice a month, slather pickle dip on burgers and pair pasta with spices from dill pickles.
“I wish this was always trending,” said Meg Antonelli, “because I love pickles.”