Pickles themselves are nothing new. They date back to 2030 BC, according to PBS, with the kosher dills we know and love introduced to America by Jewish immigrants in the late 1800s. While a spear has been the go-to sandwich companion for decades, it wasn’t until the early 2000s that the snack took on a life of its own.
As the Brooklyn hipster movement took hold, so did artisanal takes on everyday foods, with pickles at the upscale food market forefront. Small-batch pickling and elevated takes on flavors caught the attention of The New York Times and other outlets. Suddenly, pickles were the sort of experience you sought out—and were willing to drop $10+ a jar for.
Then, it seemed like pickles had peaked, but really, interest only snowballed. By 2018, picklemania hit an almost cartoonish degree, with pickles joining sriracha, bacon and, befuddlingly, unicorn as its own flavor profile. Pickle-flavored popcorn, candy canes and the like hit stores everywhere. Sonic sold a pickle-flavored slush. At the time, I worked for a food website where we churned out a pickle-related recipe per week just to keep up with demand. We realized we’d tapped into a niche, yet fervent, market, but sometime after dropping pickle cupcakes on the universe (part joke, part triple-dog dare to our audience), we felt like we jumped the shark. We moved on to other trends. However, a closer look at Google search data reveals that while we tired of pickles, the world did not.
Every summer, searches for pickles spike, but they’ve been steadily climbing in overall search volume since 2004. What’s more, Yelp predicts pickle-flavored foods to be one of the top trends of 2023, after seeing searches climb 55 percent this past year. (Fittingly, Sonic brought back its pickle slush for the first time since 2018 this past summer.)