Premade Sauces And Gravies Are Better Than Ever

GRAVIES AND SAUCES are an essential component of the function menu, but in today’s time-poor operating environment where chefs are battling tight budgets and staff shortages, it’s not surprising that demand for premade product has soared, as professionals are increasingly reluctant to engage in the onerous task of from-scratch preparation except for the upper end of the market.

 Thankfully the major foodservice suppliers have responded to marketplace needs, developing product solutions designed to make meal service easier, faster and more manageable. At the same time, they have improved product formulations in response to evolving customer requirements, such as the growing demand for gluten free ingredients. In doing so, a great deal of work goes into ensuring this is achieved without compromising quality or flavour. A good example is the Nestlé Professional’s range of Maggi gravies and sauce mixes – most Maggi gravies were reformulated to be gluten free, and the same has since happened across the sauce mixes range.

“We’ve matched our reformulation to the existing flavour profile while meeting a key special dietary need – we don’t want to mess around with a successful product’s flavour,” explains Nestlé Professional Corporate Chef Mark Clayton. “When we took gluten out of most Maggi gravies, it was without compromising the flavour profile – if we can’t do it without compromise, then we won’t do it.”

Demand for gluten free is being driven not only by those Australians diagnosed with coeliac disease – the only treatment for which is a lifelong gluten free diet – but also the 2.4 million Australians who are following a wheat free diet (gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats and in foods and ingredients made from these). Accommodating such requirements within menus is a growing challenge for chefs, as Nestlé Professional Nutritionist Karen Kingham emphasises: “Regardless of whether you’re cooking for functions, hospitals, restaurants, cafes or canteens there are a lot of special dietary demands which have to be met. So it’s a real bonus if you have one product which will meet your requirements rather than duplicating products and costs in your stock – it reduces the complexity of your workload.”

To help educate the market, Nestlé Professional in conjunction with Coeliac Australia has produced a Gluten Free Toolkit which includes a comprehensive information booklet and poster(downloadable from and has also partnered with Coeliac Australia in developing online training accreditation for foodservice staff working to produce gluten free meals.

A similar approach is being taken at Unilever Food Solutions, which has recently reformulated its Rich Brown Gravy to be gluten free. “It’s a complete change in

formulation, but one which retains the classic gravy taste – we wanted to achieve gluten free, but not at the expense of quality, so this is still a full, tasty gravy with great consistency but which now happens to be gluten free as well,” confirms Unilever Food Solutions Corporate Chef Andrew Ballard.

He adds that a further focus in product formulation is to ensure multiple applications – “especially in function catering, you’ll have issues with how much product can be kept in storage, so anything which has multiple uses offers a big benefit. Readymade gravies are a great example because they can be used as a base. You can take them and make up your own Diane sauce, mushroom sauce, pepper sauce … and you can also use them to braise beef. We create many recipes where the gravy is a base to which we add fresh ingredients for anything from a casserole to a pie mix, so it’s not just a finishing sauce but a cooking ingredient.”

Andrew adds that product evolution is also being driven by demand for more premium quality: “So you’re seeing not just a basic gravy but demi glace and jus as well. This is giving chefs more options so they can choose the right product depending on where they sit in the market and whom their customer base comprises.”

Unilever Food Solutions is following up its move to make its Rich Brown Gravy gluten free and is now looking at further reformulations across its product portfolio. “Range rejuvenation is also about contemporising flavour profiles,” Andrew points out. “Reformulation is an inevitable part of product evolution because tastes change over time so what was the typical flavour profile of, say, 10 years ago is not the same as that of today. It’s essential that we keep pace with the market.”