In May, Meg and Maddie Antonelli, a mother-and-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 powdered dill pickle seasoning from Sam’s Club; Maddie, a bag of Goldfish Original crackers.
“Goldfish, if you’re seeing this, I think we need to create this flavor,” Maddie said as her mother bombed the bag with 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 turning up in all kinds of foods, from chips and popcorn to dips and salads and even pizza. Though some pickle-spice foods have existed for decades, the versatility of the flavor and its virality on social media have helped the products flourish.
Pickle flavor hits all the right notes for people — especially those under 40 — who are looking for bigger, bolder, brighter and sourer 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, an executive at IRI, a market research company.
“It’s a tanginess that appeals to a lot of consumers, especially younger ones,” said Bret Thorn, a 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 blander ones.’”
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, its vice president. In the last year, she said, the company has had to increase its production by 30 percent to meet demand.
Large snack brands have also introduced pickle-flavored products. Blue Diamond Almonds released a spicy dill pickle version in March 2020, with the sour and spicy flavors they say consumers are looking for in snacks. Frito-Lay makes pickle-flavored chips for its Lays, Doritos and recently, Ruffles, lines. Trader Joe’s, which carries a dill pickle falafel, says its dill pickle seasoning blend sold out soon after it hit shelves in May.
DiscoverFresh Foods introduced a dill pickle flavor dip four years ago, but it didn’t sell as well as the company expected, Mr. Haskell said. The product was pulled off the shelves for six months as the company reworked the recipe to replicate the taste of fried pickles, a popular appetizer at restaurants and food trucks. Ranch flavor and panko bread crumbs were added, and the dip was reintroduced in July 2020. Mr. Haskell said the tubs have sold briskly at stores like Walmart, Sam’s Club and Costco.
“It’s taken on a life of its own,” Mr. Haskell said. “We got people who love pickles and can’t keep this out of their refrigerators.”
Tonio Viscusi of Angela’s Concessions, which sells food at fairs, said that over the years, he received dozens of requests from customers for a pickle pizza. He and his wife, Corina Viscusi, 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 events he attended in the East Coast.
Customers loved it, and ordered extra pies to go. “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 drive the boom in pickle flavor. Companies like Grillo’s Pickles, which makes traditional pickles and a fresh salsa (Pickle de Gallo), has used social media to start collaborations with bigger food brands. In April, Utz staged a limited release of a Grillo’s potato chip, and in June, Ithaca Hummus followed with a Grillo’s flavor dip. (Grillo’s said about 600,000 bags of the 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, the branding director for Grillo’s Pickles.
What might that fun future for pickle spice look like? Mr. Thorn, the food editor, 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 keep trying all the pickle options. They make pickle pizzas at home twice a month, slather pickle dip on burgers and pair pasta with dill pickle seasoning.
“I wish this was always trending,” Meg Antonelli said, “because I love pickles.”