With 54% of Americans saying they now prefer spicy foods, dips, sauces and condiments – spicy is the new normal. This trend began with Millennials and their increased interest in adventurous flavors. In fact, according to FoodGenius, in the quick-service and fast casual markets, spicy menu options increased from half to three-quarters during a recent 6-month period.
“The demand for spicy foods has been trending upward, but the size of the increase this time was a little more than expected,” says Kelly Weikel, senior consumer research manager at Technomic. In fact, Technomic lists “The Sriracha Effect” as #1 in their food trends for 2016.
The increased demand for spicy food is so great that pepper growers are developing and producing new varieties with increased flavor and hotness. There is more variety available for you to create with than ever, and we are nowhere close to the peak of this pepper trend. This means that if you have not added spicy options to your menu, now is the perfect time.
Technomic discovered that the “most popular flavors in hot sauces are jalapeño, cayenne and red chile peppers”, but habaneros, anchos, Szechuan peppers, shishito and of course, sriracha have all gained popularity. The hunt is on for the next easy-to-add ethnic hit. Following what chefs have dubbed the Sriracha effect, any of the following could be the next big thing: “ghost pepper from India, sambal from Southeast Asia, gochujang from Korea, or harissa, sumac or dukka from North Africa.”
+1 recipes are an easy way to add lots of flavor to create “Next-Level Sauces”. Adding chile to mayonnaise is becoming very popular, with a 70% increase at restaurants compared to four years ago according to Datassential. Adding puréed peppers to ranch dressing is a sure-fire hit for salads or dipping. Another great option is to combine hot and sweet – you can pair chile peppers with chocolate, sweet potatoes, fruit, or simply add some sugar to your spicy creation.
Need to know how hot to go, check the official Scoville Scale, which is the official measurement for pepper heat.
Looking to get started? We’ve got some great recipes for you: