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Hidden Valley Ranch seeks to dominate condiments

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

If you're making a store run for dinner tonight, you may notice there are a lot of ranch-flavored options on the supermarket shelves these days. There's pickle ranch, Buffalo ranch, Nashville Hot Ranch. There's green goddess ranch. There's Cheez-It Cheezy Ranch and so many more. These twists on the original are all from Hidden Valley Ranch, the nation's biggest brand of ranch dressing. And they are part of a strategy by the brand's parent company, Clorox, to dominate the condiments aisle. This is according to reporter Natasha Khan, who wrote about this for The Wall Street Journal. Hey, Natasha.

NATASHA KHAN: Hi.

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DETROW: So I'm, like, down the middle, I guess, on ranch. I like it on wings. I cannot stand it on salad. You start your piece saying, Hidden Valley Ranch is coming for every meal you eat. And just to be clear, you are including breakfast in that.

KHAN: Actually, yes, and breakfast is, to Hidden Valley, one of their newest ways to be there for every time people eat.

DETROW: How do they envision us eating ranch dressing with breakfast, just to spell that out?

KHAN: That's really more, for example, ranch seasoning on eggs, potatoes and hash browns, for example.

DETROW: OK.

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KHAN: And, you know, I am kind of tempted to try it myself sometime.

DETROW: You even mention a ranch ice cream.

KHAN: Yes. I mean, that's actually ready on the market. I think it was a partnership with Van Leeuwen Ice Cream, and I've heard mixed things about it. I haven't tried it myself, but I've been told it tastes sort of like a frozen ranch dip. But, you know, people are torn on to - whether to classify it as savory or sweet.

DETROW: So you point out that this is maybe not exactly a hard sell because ranch dressing has already been raking in $1.3 billion a year. It outsells ketchup, barbecue sauce. Explain how Clorox is thinking about this, though, how it plans on doubling the current sales and this world-domination ranch-dressing goal that it's set for itself.

KHAN: Well, the goal for them is to double the sales of Ranch With line. So outside of its original ranch dressing, they have a lot of flavored ranch or ranch for different occasions that they've been really rolling out in recent months, things like garlic ranch to drizzle on pizza or pickle ranch for hot dogs or cheese ranch, in collaboration with Cheez-It for fries or nachos or pretzels. So I think they know that people are using ranch with different meals, with different flavor profiles, and now they're really trying to come out with products that could complement those choices. Garlic ranch for pizza is a really good example of that. I mean, if you see the bottle on shelves, they actually have a photo of a pizza on it. You know, it's really designed so that you can make that association of, oh, like, this one's a really good pairing with my pizza.

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DETROW: Yeah. So there's been all of these successful lines, and a lot of them make more sense when you think a little bit more about them than when you maybe first see the product name, like you were explaining. There have been a few flops, though. And one of the flops that you mentioned in your article is whipped ranch mousse.

KHAN: Right.

DETROW: Can you tell us a little bit about that and how that went?

KHAN: Yeah. I mean, the company was telling - I've not really tried the whipped ranch mousse myself. But, you know, I think for that one, actually, it was a process where, you know, they had to make sure that the mousse had, for example, the right amount of bubbles or, you know, like - so that it has that mousse texture. And I think it was test marketed at a number of Krogers stores for a year, but it didn't go national after that. So I think, some products, they've told me - after a while that they might realize that maybe it might not be as well-received as they had hoped.

DETROW: Yeah. Can I ask which of these products is your favorite?

KHAN: Do you know what? Like, I actually - I just moved to the States a few months ago, so I - actually was the first time for me trying ranch ever. And it was very exciting.

DETROW: Yeah. What did you think?

KHAN: You know what? It was great. I actually really liked the garlic ranch, and it tasted really great with pizza. I actually - as I said, I want to try out, like, having ranch seasoning on eggs. I'm actually looking forward to trying more out in the coming months.

DETROW: Natasha Khan is a reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Her piece is called "How Much More Ranch Can America Take? Hidden Valley Seeks Total Domination." Thanks so much.

KHAN: Thank you.

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