Spicy Foods: Bring the Heat

Global consumers now have endless choices when it comes to packaged food and beverage goods, and most of them are willing to branch out and try new brands if there’s something new and exciting on offer. More than anything, today’s adventurous consumers want their food to be flavorful, and one of the most popular flavor categories we’re seeing this year has to do with heat.


As people have become more familiar with peppers ranging from the milder and more nuanced serrano to the scorching heat of the Carolina Reaper, they have become intrigued by more than just how hot a pepper is. Now, they also want complex flavors, and they want to understand those flavors so that they know what they’re eating and how to use it in their kitchens.


During the past few years, retail brands have been offering up some of the world’s hottest peppers to attract daring consumers. However, going forward, we expect to see the heat cooling off in favor of more complex flavors.


While consumers of all ages love spicy flavors, preferences vary widely. Younger shoppers are more likely to seek out very spicy products, so brands marketing to a younger demographic may be more successful at playing up their products’ heat.


There is also now a greater demand for more variety in spicy foods as consumers explore more global flavors and cuisines. Today’s buyer increasingly looks for authenticity and region-specific cuisine, and we think this approach will continue to drive a desire for authentic flavors this year. That means you’ll want to convey authenticity with preparation styles and ingredients to capitalize on this demand, allowing your customers to feel as if they are experiencing the cuisine of another culture.


With that in mind, specialty peppers are making their way to center stage, such as urfa biber, malagueta, and choricero, thanks to their complexity as opposed to pure heat. The Aji Amarillo pepper, is considered part of the Peruvian “holy trinity”. It’s heat matches up with cayenne pepper, yet delivers a perfect balance of rich fruity flavor and heat. With an odor similar to raisin, it’s taste is somewhat subtle with hints of passion fruit and mango. Aji Amarillo pepper can kick up any meal with great flavor and medium heat and appears in hot sauces and salsas.


The increasing interest in Japanese cuisine is expected to encourage a surge in demand for a seasoning blend known as togarashi. This blend contains seven distinct spices: white and black sesame seed, orange peel, ginger, nori flakes, red pepper, and Sichuan pepper. It’s a great (and spicy) addition to bone broth, ramen soups, and traditional miso, as well as sprinkled onto stir-fries, meats, and seafood dishes.


These are just a few of the possibilities regarding the “spicy” flavor trend that will continue to grow this year as it has in the past several years – just remember that now, it’s more about flavor complexity and intrigue than heat alone. Natural flavor ingredients, such as natural eugenol, cayenne pepper extract, and natural cinnamic aldehyde, can help you add heat and flavor to any packaged products or menu items this year.