Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Wonder Friend. Wonder Friend Wonders, “What is the most popular condiment?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Wonder Friend!

Have you ever been to a baseball game? What part of the experience did you enjoy most? Many people love the thrill of watching pitchers work their magic. Others enjoy the sound of a bat knocking the ball over the outfield fence.

For many people, though, eating a hot dog really completes the experience of taking in a baseball game. The thought of sizzling meat wrapped in a soft bun makes their mouths water! Of course, a hot dog just isn’t complete without mustard. Or do you prefer ketchup? Others might spread on a thick layer of relish. 

Whether it’s a hot dog, a hamburger, or another type of sandwich, there are a number of toppings that can make it even more delicious. What are we talking about? Condiments, of course!

Condiments are added to food to give it more flavor. They usually take the form of sauces, dips, or spreads. People don’t always agree on what should be called a condiment, though.

For example, jelly and jam are usually viewed as condiments, but peanut butter is not. Likewise, salsa is often included, while guacamole is not. People may disagree on what does and doesn’t fit into this category. But they can agree on one thing! Condiments definitely do the job when it comes to adding flavor to the foods we eat.

Can you imagine French fries without ketchup? Many kids would say no! However, many people eat fries with malt vinegar or mayonnaise. While ketchup and mustard are popular condiments, they’re only two options among hundreds from around the world.

A trip down the food aisles at your local grocery store will reveal a whole host of condiments. You’ll find ketchup, mustard, relish, mayonnaise, hot sauce, jam, jelly, and salsa. There may be sauces ranging from soy to barbecue! Of course, not all of these toppings go great with all foods. Ketchup on a hot dog is tasty, but ketchup on plain bread…not so much. Put jelly or jam on that plain bread, though, and now you’ve got something!

In America, many people assume that ketchup is the most popular condiment. After all, it goes well with so many foods. People add ketchup to their French fries, hot dogs, hamburgers, and many other dishes. Who doesn’t love ketchup?

As it turns out, Americans do love ketchup. But is it the most popular condiment in America? The answer is unclear. Sales figures change each year and vary from state to state. While ketchup regularly appears near the top of the list of widely loved toppings, it has several strong rivals. For instance, salsa often surpasses ketchup in overall annual sales. Soy sauce sales are also similar to those of ketchup. 

Ranch salad dressing is another of ketchup’s top rivals. It has become a favorite dip for French fries and many love to spread it on sandwiches. Some people even dunk pizza in ranch! In 2016, the spicy sauce Sriracha out-sold ketchup at the grocery store to become the top condiment in the U.S. It’s still a common topping on a number of dishes, from eggs to potatoes.

However, one sandwich spread often reigns supreme. Its sales are often double those of many others. Can you guess what we’re talking about? That’s right—mayonnaise! According to sales figures, the creamy sandwich spread regularly accounts for more than $2 billion in annual revenue. Many consider mayo to be the top condiment in the U.S.

What’s the top condiment worldwide? Around the globe, a variety of toppings are wildly popular. Vegemite is a top choice in Australia, as is marmite in Britain. In South Korea, gochujang may steal the show. A spicy white vinegar called Datu Puti is widely used in the Philippines. Other popular choices around the world include tahini, currywurst, and aioli.

Do you have a favorite condiment? What do you spread on your sandwiches? Do you dip your fries in ketchup? Maybe you use mustard, mayonnaise, or ranch. The next time you’re at the grocery story, consider picking up a condiment you haven’t tried before. You never know—you could find your new favorite!

Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1

Wonder What's Next?

Can a needle replace a pencil? Find out tomorrow in Wonderopolis!