In May, Meg and Maddie Antonelli, a mother-daughter duo who review food news on TikTok, filmed themselves in their car in the parking lot of a Florida grocery store. Meg held up a container of Sam’s Club dill pickle powder seasoning; Maddie, a bag of Goldfish Original crackers.
“Goldfish, if you see this, I think we need to create this flavor,” Maddie Antonelli said as her mother bombarded the bag of pickle seasoning for a video that would later be posted on their TikTok channel, floridamomof3. After tasting the result, Maddie said: “It’s unreal.”
While Pepperidge Farm, the maker of Goldfish, has yet to create the Antonelli flavor, pickle seasoning is increasingly appearing in all kinds of foods, from chips and popcorn to dips and salads and even on pizza. Although some spicy pickle foods have been around for decades, the versatility of the flavor and its virality on social media have helped the products thrive.
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 tartness, and it’s subtle enough to add other flavors, said Sally Lyons Wyatt, executive at IRI, a market research firm.
“It’s a zesty taste that appeals to a lot of consumers, especially younger ones,” said Bret Thorn, 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 back to milder flavors. ”
For decades, Country Home Creations, in Goodrich, Michigan, has sold pickle mixes made from a family recipe.
“There are definitely a lot of pickle lovers out there,” said Vice President Stephanie Jones. Over the past year, she said, the company had to increase production by 30% to meet demand.
Major snack brands have also introduced pickle flavored products. Blue Diamond Almonds released a version of Spicy Dill Pickle in March 2020, featuring the sour and spicy flavors they say consumers are looking for in snacks. Frito-Lay makes pickle-flavored fries for its Lays, Doritos and, more recently, Ruffles lines. Trader Joe’s, which offers dill pickle falafel, says its dill pickle seasoning mix sold out soon after it went on sale in May.
The dips are great. Taste of the South’s creamy fried pickle dip broke sales records for its parent company, DiscoverFresh Foods, said Matthew Haskell, vice president of marketing.
DiscoverFresh Foods launched a dill pickle-flavored dip four years ago, but it didn’t sell as well as expected, Haskell said. The product was pulled from shelves for six months as the company reworked the recipe to replicate the taste of fried pickles, a popular appetizer in restaurants and food trucks. Ranch flavor and panko breadcrumbs were added, and the dip was reintroduced in July 2020. Haskell said the tubs sold out quickly at stores like Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco.
“He took on a life of his own,” Haskell said. “We have people who love pickles and can’t keep that out of their fridges.”
Tonio Viscusi of Angela’s Concessions, which sells food at fairs, said over the years he had received dozens of customer requests for a pickle pizza. He and his wife, Corina Viscusi, experimented, eventually resulting in a recipe with white sauce, mozzarella, dill pickle chips and ranch dressing. He showcased it in 2020 at the drive-through food fairs he attended on the East Coast.
Customers loved it and ordered extra pies to take away.
“I didn’t invent this,” he said, “but I mastered it.” Last year, he made pickle pizza a permanent menu item.
Social media has helped 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 collaborations with bigger food brands. In April, Utz held a limited release of a Grillo’s Chips, and in June, Ithaca Hummus followed with a Grillo’s Flavor Dip. (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 your food,” said Eddie Andre, Grillo’s Pickles Brand Manager.
What could that fun future for pickles look like? Thorn, the food publisher, thinks the flavors of kimchi and pickled Japanese vegetables will be the next big thing in the snack world.
Meg and Maddie Antonelli, the Florida TikTokers, will continue to try all the pickle options. They make pickle pizzas at home twice a month, spread pickle dip on burgers, and pair pasta with dill pickle seasoning.
“I wish it was always in style,” said Meg Antonelli, “because I love pickles.”