Despite increased consumer awareness of the probiotic benefits of fermented vegetables, sales in this category have remained flat for the past five-years and look set to continue hovering at the US$2.6bn mark.

According to a new report by Packaged Facts, entitled Pickles, Olives, and Relishes in the US, the market for fermented vegetables will remain stagnant, primarily due to a consumer shift from processed to fresh foods.

Sales are expected to dip to US$2.57bn by 2010 as sales of refrigerated pickles, olives and relishes continue to decline. Shelf stable sales are expected to remain flat, despite manufacturers attempts to go upscale through innovation with the introduction of healthier products and new flavours.

According to a survey conducted by Packaged Facts, the “upscale” package tag was carried by almost 7% of new products in the marinated condiment market. Other tags such as “fresh,” “no preservatives,” and “gourmet” followed suit, yet did little to stimulate market growth.

However, its not all doom and gloom as the low-fat heart healthy characteristics of olives coupled with the perception that pickles, olives and relishes are ‘fun’ foods provide manufacturers with marketing leverage, the US research company suggested.

“If you look on the supermarket shelves, right next to the organic pickles, olives, and other marinated condiments, we’re seeing healthy competition from ethnic fare, particularly Asian and Hispanic,” noted Don Montuori, the publisher of Packaged Facts. “This opens up ethnic demographics as well as Baby Boomers as key targets for manufacturers who want to increase sales by focusing on innovative flavours, greater varieties of premium vegetables, and ethnic-inspired condiments.”