Turning Up the Heat

It’s no secret that spicy foods and flavors have been growing in popularity in recent years. This trend began picking up steam a few years ago and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. From foodservice to retail, spicy is in.
Why are these flavors and foods becoming so popular? People, and millennials specifically, are becoming more adventurous eaters. Millennials see these super spicy foods and flavors as a challenge; eating something particularly spicy can sometimes be seen as more of an experience. For millennials, mainstream flavors and familiar ingredients just aren’t going to cut it. It’s all about complex spicy ethnic flavors, unique peppers, and bold flavor combinations. Let’s break down this trend a little bit more:

The Sriracha Effect Sriracha

Thanks to Sriracha, spicy ethnic flavors have been seeing substantial increases in growth. Sriracha, an Asian hot sauce, first saw a major spike in popularity in 2013, and since has been featured on everything from snacks to sandwiches to frozen foods. It’s now relatively mainstream, and with millennials always looking for new and innovative flavors, Sriracha has been giving way to other spicy ethnic flavors and foods. Harissa, for example, is a spicy chili-based sauce common to North Africa cuisine. It’s been popping up on restaurant menus and has seen modest growth in the past year or two. Gochujang, a Korean chili paste, has also seen growth in the past couple of years in both foodservice and retail. Sriracha helped to fuel the demand for spicy ethnic flavors, so don’t be surprised to see more flavors like Harissa and Gochujang both on restaurant menus and at the grocery store.

Popular Peppers

Seeing as millennials love a good challenge, it’s not surprising that flavors like Ghost Pepper and Habanero have been popping up at retail, and even foodservice to an extent. These flavors bring the heat and satisfy millennials’ desire for spicy foods. In the naming of retail food items, we’ve been seeing more ingredient call-outs, especially for peppers. Adventurous millennials look for unique peppers to spicy up their snacks and meals. Don’t be surprised to see more Guajillos, Habaneros, Jalapenos, Poblanos, and Serranos called out on retail packaging and restaurant menus.

Sweet Heat Combos


Although super spicy flavors have been gaining popularity, there are still consumers who shy away from spicy flavors. The best way to engage these consumers? By offering sweet heat flavor combinations. Sweet heat flavors have seen a significant rise in popularity, as they have much more mass appeal than a spicy flavor on its own. Sweetness, most often from fruit, helps to provide balance to a spicy flavor. We expect fruit and pepper combinations, like Mango Habanero, Peach Chipotle, and Apricot Jalapeno, are expected to see gains in the coming months.

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