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Big Mac Sauce Photo courtesy of McDonald's
Big Mac sauce dipping cups will be available for McDonald's app users while supplies last.

Sauces become the new QSR battleground

McDonald’s will begin offering its signature Big Mac sauce a la carte and with McNuggets orders for app users.

Starting April 27, you’ll be able to put McDonald’s Big Mac sauce on anything you order from the chain. The “person who runs the McDonald’s account” – or the company’s SMS messaging system – broke the news this morning with a photo of a Big Mac sauce dip cup featuring retro blue and silver inspired by the OG Big Mac sandwich wraps from 1968.

The Big Mac sauce dip cups are available only via the app and for a limited time, while supplies last.

This news comes on the heels of McDonald’s announcement earlier this week that it is making a few tweaks to its core burgers, including more sauce added to its Big Mac. That McDonald’s is leaning into its signature sauce is perhaps no surprise these days as more chains put their sauces front and center.

The same day McDonald’s announced its burger changes, for instance, Chick-fil-A announced it is now selling its barbecue and sweet & spicy sriracha sauces in retail locations nationwide. The chicken chain even went so far as to rollout an entire sauce-themed merch line.

Taco Bell has also recently leveraged the popularity of its sauces through partnerships with local favorites like Yellowbird and Truff’s. The company also flexes its sauces’ brand equity with a sauce packet collection on its merch line.  

In 2020, KFC jumped into the fray, introducing its first “KFC Sauce” after testing 50 iterations. The chain has since added a buffalo ranch sauce to its lineup that already included BBQ, ranch and honey mustard. And, a few months ago, Shake Shack launched a new Hot Ones Menu, complete with Hot Ones Spicy ShackSauce.

In the past few years, sauces have become a new battleground for restaurants, and for good reason. Consumers’ penchant for sauces has grown as our food has become more globalized and our palates more sophisticated. According to Innova’s 2022 Flavor Survey, 39% of consumers said they’re most likely to experiment with flavors through sauces, seasonings and toppings.

Simply put, we want more flavor and heat and innovation, and sauce is a good way to provide all of that within our control. It’s also versatile, operationally simple, inexpensive, and low risk. To illustrate as much, Wingstop rolled out 12 new chicken sandwiches last year simply by taking advantage of its 12 already existing sauces.

And, if you don’t think a sauce alone can drive traffic into a restaurant, well then, you’ve probably never been to Raising Cane’s.

As such, new product introductions including sauces and seasonings increased by 10% in 2022. There aren’t many signs of slowing down here. The global culinary sauces market is projected to grow to nearly $60 billion by 2029, from $46.6 billion in 2022, according to Fortune Business Insights. Hot sauce specifically is expected to grow by about 8% through 2026.

McDonald’s is taking advantage of this trend with its Big Mac Sauce x Everything promotion (as it’s called). The Big Mac sauce dip cups will be available through the app at no extra charge with any purchase of Chicken McNuggets. It can also be ordered a la carte for any customized concoction, and the chain has shared some ideas here.

There is little doubt this launch will appeal to many of the chain’s 40 million U.S. loyalty members and recruit even more users. Copycat recipes of Big Mac sauce are everywhere, and several CPG companies also sell “special sauce” in its likeness. The sauce is popular, it is signature, and for consumers who now want more sauce on everything, it’ll be a strong contender in this emerging sauce competition.

Contact Alicia Kelso at [email protected]

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