Demand for spicy flavours is on the rise: here's how you can benefit from it

Demand for spicy flavours is on the rise: here's how you can benefit from it

By
Laura Robinson
January 14, 2020

Consumers want to spice things up.

It’s January. And it’s dark and cold. So maybe it’s no surprise that we want to crank up the heat in our kitchens.

Research recently conducted by flavouring company, Kalsec, showed that spicy food is here to stay. Consumer interest has grown steadily over the last ten years and over 50% of those surveyed prepare spicy meals at home - twice as many as in 2017.

While dips, sauces and snacks still make up the lion’s share of the market, innovators are also looking for more unusual ways to spice things up - from sweet-heat cheese to tongue-tingling desserts. And it doesn’t stop there. Trend analysts were surprised to see a dramatic rise in the sales of hot sauce advent calendars in late 2019.  

But don’t reach for the jalapeños just yet. From mainstream fusion options to niche products that pack a powerful punch, there’s plenty on offer to feed your customers’ hunger for the hot stuff.

Trend drivers: globally-inspired, conscious consumers

As chefs and influencers race to create new dishes to make them stand out in a crowded market, consumer preferences are becoming increasingly globally-inspired. Millennials in particular - and food lovers of all ages - are looking for experiences. They don’t just want heat. They want new flavour combinations that balance the five basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami - as skillfully as an Olympic gymnast.

Millennials are also increasingly aware of how their food choices affect their health - and the health of the planet. When cutting down on sugar, salt and fat without compromising on taste, spice becomes a natural ally. The same goes for the growing numbers of flexitarians and plant-based eaters. Some of the most meat-free friendly meals come from cuisines that pack a spice punch - from Indian to African and Middle Eastern dishes.

Flavour options: Variety truly is the spice of life

Jalapeños are only the tip of a huge and spicy iceberg. Consumers want more than a choice between “mild” and “spicy”. They want to experiment with different sources of heat. So while serrano, habanero, poblano, and green and red New Mexico chilies may get their eyes watering, milder chilies or dried varieties like guajillo, pasilla, ancho and cascabel are also becoming increasingly popular.

And it’s not just about the heat. Consumers are looking for layered flavours. Luckily there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. From well-known foodie favourites, like harissa, sambal oelek and peri peri to relative newcomers, like Japanese shichimi togarashi and Middle Eastern zhug, there’s an endless array of flavour enhancers available. But if you’re looking to get creative, research suggests that spice pairs best with salty, sweet and tangy flavours.


Riding the trend: From hot sauce to sweet heat in dairy

A recent report indicated significant growth in hot sauce sales in North America and Western Europe. But perhaps no product embodies the market opportunity like Sriracha. Sales of this iconic Asian-style red chilli sauce created by Huy Fong Foods have been steadily growing for decades but the company’s growth has skyrocketed in the last few years. IBISWorld estimates that it will be drawing in revenue of around $109.3 million by 2023. After conquering the domestic market, Huy Fong Foods are now expanding in Asia Pacific, a region that contributes to around half of chilli sauce sales globally.

Others have applied this trend in more unconventional ways. After Future Market Insights projects that spicy dairy products will see a compound annual growth rate of 6.2% between 2016 and 2026, various companies have experimented with “sweet heat”. From chilli spiked cinnamon butter and raspberry chipotle cream cheese to chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne ice cream - the fat content of dairy products mellows the heat sensation and provides a creamy canvas for creating new flavour combinations.

Local variation: What’s hot and what’s not

But not all spice is created equal. And a nation’s cultural preferences can lead to big differences in levels of tolerance. Studies have shown that products assessed to be “hot” in Europe can be the equivalent of “mild” in Asia. So it’s important to get to grips with how much heat your customers can handle.  

The Brits have a well documented love affair with spice, with 93% of consumers eating spicy meals at dinner and curry houses bringing in 4.2 billion pounds a year. The French market tends to be more traditional, favouring subtler and sweeter forms of spice that enhance flavour without the heat. Whereas the Swiss crowned Thai food their joint favourite exotic cuisine in 2019, thanks to its unique combination of sour, sweet, spicy and umami flavours.

Business opportunities

Manufacturing

  • Aim for the mainstream market by adding spicy twists to existing products - or go niche and create a product experience that gets foodies talking.
  • Consider how to include information about the heat source in marketing materials to help you differentiate.

Food service

  • Consumers are more comfortable experimenting with spicy flavours in savoury dishes they already know. Try building in a layer of spice to sour, sweet or tangy meals or create fusion dishes that let mainstream consumers enjoy a fresh twist on old favourites.
  • Consider adding a dish from popular spicy cuisines to your menu. Globally, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and Thai are consumer favourites - or treat foodies to lesser known authentic flavours from Peru and Colombia.  

Retail

  • Consumers often want to cook the dishes they eat in restaurants at home - but it can be difficult to find these ingredients in mainstream supermarkets. See which products and ingredients are appearing in street food offers or new restaurant concepts and give them space on your shelves.
  • Give customers confidence to try something different by offering tastings of new spicy products, focusing on cult or locally-produced brands, and share ideas about how to use them in regionally popular dishes.

Written by
Laura Robinson

From policy geek to digital consultant, Laura has always enjoyed bringing people together through words or tools to drive positive change. She is most proud of finally taking the leap into entrepreneurship by founding Pink Pear Agency - a network of passionate specialists who help food businesses grow innovative projects and share their stories with the world. Laura is currently interested in project development and management, digital tools, content strategy and copywriting.

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Consumers want to spice things up.

It’s January. And it’s dark and cold. So maybe it’s no surprise that we want to crank up the heat in our kitchens.

Research recently conducted by flavouring company, Kalsec, showed that spicy food is here to stay. Consumer interest has grown steadily over the last ten years and over 50% of those surveyed prepare spicy meals at home - twice as many as in 2017.

While dips, sauces and snacks still make up the lion’s share of the market, innovators are also looking for more unusual ways to spice things up - from sweet-heat cheese to tongue-tingling desserts. And it doesn’t stop there. Trend analysts were surprised to see a dramatic rise in the sales of hot sauce advent calendars in late 2019.  

But don’t reach for the jalapeños just yet. From mainstream fusion options to niche products that pack a powerful punch, there’s plenty on offer to feed your customers’ hunger for the hot stuff.

Trend drivers: globally-inspired, conscious consumers

As chefs and influencers race to create new dishes to make them stand out in a crowded market, consumer preferences are becoming increasingly globally-inspired. Millennials in particular - and food lovers of all ages - are looking for experiences. They don’t just want heat. They want new flavour combinations that balance the five basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami - as skillfully as an Olympic gymnast.

Millennials are also increasingly aware of how their food choices affect their health - and the health of the planet. When cutting down on sugar, salt and fat without compromising on taste, spice becomes a natural ally. The same goes for the growing numbers of flexitarians and plant-based eaters. Some of the most meat-free friendly meals come from cuisines that pack a spice punch - from Indian to African and Middle Eastern dishes.

Flavour options: Variety truly is the spice of life

Jalapeños are only the tip of a huge and spicy iceberg. Consumers want more than a choice between “mild” and “spicy”. They want to experiment with different sources of heat. So while serrano, habanero, poblano, and green and red New Mexico chilies may get their eyes watering, milder chilies or dried varieties like guajillo, pasilla, ancho and cascabel are also becoming increasingly popular.

And it’s not just about the heat. Consumers are looking for layered flavours. Luckily there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. From well-known foodie favourites, like harissa, sambal oelek and peri peri to relative newcomers, like Japanese shichimi togarashi and Middle Eastern zhug, there’s an endless array of flavour enhancers available. But if you’re looking to get creative, research suggests that spice pairs best with salty, sweet and tangy flavours.


Riding the trend: From hot sauce to sweet heat in dairy

A recent report indicated significant growth in hot sauce sales in North America and Western Europe. But perhaps no product embodies the market opportunity like Sriracha. Sales of this iconic Asian-style red chilli sauce created by Huy Fong Foods have been steadily growing for decades but the company’s growth has skyrocketed in the last few years. IBISWorld estimates that it will be drawing in revenue of around $109.3 million by 2023. After conquering the domestic market, Huy Fong Foods are now expanding in Asia Pacific, a region that contributes to around half of chilli sauce sales globally.

Others have applied this trend in more unconventional ways. After Future Market Insights projects that spicy dairy products will see a compound annual growth rate of 6.2% between 2016 and 2026, various companies have experimented with “sweet heat”. From chilli spiked cinnamon butter and raspberry chipotle cream cheese to chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne ice cream - the fat content of dairy products mellows the heat sensation and provides a creamy canvas for creating new flavour combinations.

Local variation: What’s hot and what’s not

But not all spice is created equal. And a nation’s cultural preferences can lead to big differences in levels of tolerance. Studies have shown that products assessed to be “hot” in Europe can be the equivalent of “mild” in Asia. So it’s important to get to grips with how much heat your customers can handle.  

The Brits have a well documented love affair with spice, with 93% of consumers eating spicy meals at dinner and curry houses bringing in 4.2 billion pounds a year. The French market tends to be more traditional, favouring subtler and sweeter forms of spice that enhance flavour without the heat. Whereas the Swiss crowned Thai food their joint favourite exotic cuisine in 2019, thanks to its unique combination of sour, sweet, spicy and umami flavours.

Business opportunities

Manufacturing

  • Aim for the mainstream market by adding spicy twists to existing products - or go niche and create a product experience that gets foodies talking.
  • Consider how to include information about the heat source in marketing materials to help you differentiate.

Food service

  • Consumers are more comfortable experimenting with spicy flavours in savoury dishes they already know. Try building in a layer of spice to sour, sweet or tangy meals or create fusion dishes that let mainstream consumers enjoy a fresh twist on old favourites.
  • Consider adding a dish from popular spicy cuisines to your menu. Globally, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and Thai are consumer favourites - or treat foodies to lesser known authentic flavours from Peru and Colombia.  

Retail

  • Consumers often want to cook the dishes they eat in restaurants at home - but it can be difficult to find these ingredients in mainstream supermarkets. See which products and ingredients are appearing in street food offers or new restaurant concepts and give them space on your shelves.
  • Give customers confidence to try something different by offering tastings of new spicy products, focusing on cult or locally-produced brands, and share ideas about how to use them in regionally popular dishes.

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Consumers want to spice things up.

It’s January. And it’s dark and cold. So maybe it’s no surprise that we want to crank up the heat in our kitchens.

Research recently conducted by flavouring company, Kalsec, showed that spicy food is here to stay. Consumer interest has grown steadily over the last ten years and over 50% of those surveyed prepare spicy meals at home - twice as many as in 2017.

While dips, sauces and snacks still make up the lion’s share of the market, innovators are also looking for more unusual ways to spice things up - from sweet-heat cheese to tongue-tingling desserts. And it doesn’t stop there. Trend analysts were surprised to see a dramatic rise in the sales of hot sauce advent calendars in late 2019.  

But don’t reach for the jalapeños just yet. From mainstream fusion options to niche products that pack a powerful punch, there’s plenty on offer to feed your customers’ hunger for the hot stuff.

Trend drivers: globally-inspired, conscious consumers

As chefs and influencers race to create new dishes to make them stand out in a crowded market, consumer preferences are becoming increasingly globally-inspired. Millennials in particular - and food lovers of all ages - are looking for experiences. They don’t just want heat. They want new flavour combinations that balance the five basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami - as skillfully as an Olympic gymnast.

Millennials are also increasingly aware of how their food choices affect their health - and the health of the planet. When cutting down on sugar, salt and fat without compromising on taste, spice becomes a natural ally. The same goes for the growing numbers of flexitarians and plant-based eaters. Some of the most meat-free friendly meals come from cuisines that pack a spice punch - from Indian to African and Middle Eastern dishes.

Flavour options: Variety truly is the spice of life

Jalapeños are only the tip of a huge and spicy iceberg. Consumers want more than a choice between “mild” and “spicy”. They want to experiment with different sources of heat. So while serrano, habanero, poblano, and green and red New Mexico chilies may get their eyes watering, milder chilies or dried varieties like guajillo, pasilla, ancho and cascabel are also becoming increasingly popular.

And it’s not just about the heat. Consumers are looking for layered flavours. Luckily there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. From well-known foodie favourites, like harissa, sambal oelek and peri peri to relative newcomers, like Japanese shichimi togarashi and Middle Eastern zhug, there’s an endless array of flavour enhancers available. But if you’re looking to get creative, research suggests that spice pairs best with salty, sweet and tangy flavours.


Riding the trend: From hot sauce to sweet heat in dairy

A recent report indicated significant growth in hot sauce sales in North America and Western Europe. But perhaps no product embodies the market opportunity like Sriracha. Sales of this iconic Asian-style red chilli sauce created by Huy Fong Foods have been steadily growing for decades but the company’s growth has skyrocketed in the last few years. IBISWorld estimates that it will be drawing in revenue of around $109.3 million by 2023. After conquering the domestic market, Huy Fong Foods are now expanding in Asia Pacific, a region that contributes to around half of chilli sauce sales globally.

Others have applied this trend in more unconventional ways. After Future Market Insights projects that spicy dairy products will see a compound annual growth rate of 6.2% between 2016 and 2026, various companies have experimented with “sweet heat”. From chilli spiked cinnamon butter and raspberry chipotle cream cheese to chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne ice cream - the fat content of dairy products mellows the heat sensation and provides a creamy canvas for creating new flavour combinations.

Local variation: What’s hot and what’s not

But not all spice is created equal. And a nation’s cultural preferences can lead to big differences in levels of tolerance. Studies have shown that products assessed to be “hot” in Europe can be the equivalent of “mild” in Asia. So it’s important to get to grips with how much heat your customers can handle.  

The Brits have a well documented love affair with spice, with 93% of consumers eating spicy meals at dinner and curry houses bringing in 4.2 billion pounds a year. The French market tends to be more traditional, favouring subtler and sweeter forms of spice that enhance flavour without the heat. Whereas the Swiss crowned Thai food their joint favourite exotic cuisine in 2019, thanks to its unique combination of sour, sweet, spicy and umami flavours.

Business opportunities

Manufacturing

  • Aim for the mainstream market by adding spicy twists to existing products - or go niche and create a product experience that gets foodies talking.
  • Consider how to include information about the heat source in marketing materials to help you differentiate.

Food service

  • Consumers are more comfortable experimenting with spicy flavours in savoury dishes they already know. Try building in a layer of spice to sour, sweet or tangy meals or create fusion dishes that let mainstream consumers enjoy a fresh twist on old favourites.
  • Consider adding a dish from popular spicy cuisines to your menu. Globally, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and Thai are consumer favourites - or treat foodies to lesser known authentic flavours from Peru and Colombia.  

Retail

  • Consumers often want to cook the dishes they eat in restaurants at home - but it can be difficult to find these ingredients in mainstream supermarkets. See which products and ingredients are appearing in street food offers or new restaurant concepts and give them space on your shelves.
  • Give customers confidence to try something different by offering tastings of new spicy products, focusing on cult or locally-produced brands, and share ideas about how to use them in regionally popular dishes.

Consumers want to spice things up.

It’s January. And it’s dark and cold. So maybe it’s no surprise that we want to crank up the heat in our kitchens.

Research recently conducted by flavouring company, Kalsec, showed that spicy food is here to stay. Consumer interest has grown steadily over the last ten years and over 50% of those surveyed prepare spicy meals at home - twice as many as in 2017.

While dips, sauces and snacks still make up the lion’s share of the market, innovators are also looking for more unusual ways to spice things up - from sweet-heat cheese to tongue-tingling desserts. And it doesn’t stop there. Trend analysts were surprised to see a dramatic rise in the sales of hot sauce advent calendars in late 2019.  

But don’t reach for the jalapeños just yet. From mainstream fusion options to niche products that pack a powerful punch, there’s plenty on offer to feed your customers’ hunger for the hot stuff.

Trend drivers: globally-inspired, conscious consumers

As chefs and influencers race to create new dishes to make them stand out in a crowded market, consumer preferences are becoming increasingly globally-inspired. Millennials in particular - and food lovers of all ages - are looking for experiences. They don’t just want heat. They want new flavour combinations that balance the five basic tastes – sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami - as skillfully as an Olympic gymnast.

Millennials are also increasingly aware of how their food choices affect their health - and the health of the planet. When cutting down on sugar, salt and fat without compromising on taste, spice becomes a natural ally. The same goes for the growing numbers of flexitarians and plant-based eaters. Some of the most meat-free friendly meals come from cuisines that pack a spice punch - from Indian to African and Middle Eastern dishes.

Flavour options: Variety truly is the spice of life

Jalapeños are only the tip of a huge and spicy iceberg. Consumers want more than a choice between “mild” and “spicy”. They want to experiment with different sources of heat. So while serrano, habanero, poblano, and green and red New Mexico chilies may get their eyes watering, milder chilies or dried varieties like guajillo, pasilla, ancho and cascabel are also becoming increasingly popular.

And it’s not just about the heat. Consumers are looking for layered flavours. Luckily there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. From well-known foodie favourites, like harissa, sambal oelek and peri peri to relative newcomers, like Japanese shichimi togarashi and Middle Eastern zhug, there’s an endless array of flavour enhancers available. But if you’re looking to get creative, research suggests that spice pairs best with salty, sweet and tangy flavours.


Riding the trend: From hot sauce to sweet heat in dairy

A recent report indicated significant growth in hot sauce sales in North America and Western Europe. But perhaps no product embodies the market opportunity like Sriracha. Sales of this iconic Asian-style red chilli sauce created by Huy Fong Foods have been steadily growing for decades but the company’s growth has skyrocketed in the last few years. IBISWorld estimates that it will be drawing in revenue of around $109.3 million by 2023. After conquering the domestic market, Huy Fong Foods are now expanding in Asia Pacific, a region that contributes to around half of chilli sauce sales globally.

Others have applied this trend in more unconventional ways. After Future Market Insights projects that spicy dairy products will see a compound annual growth rate of 6.2% between 2016 and 2026, various companies have experimented with “sweet heat”. From chilli spiked cinnamon butter and raspberry chipotle cream cheese to chocolate, cinnamon and cayenne ice cream - the fat content of dairy products mellows the heat sensation and provides a creamy canvas for creating new flavour combinations.

Local variation: What’s hot and what’s not

But not all spice is created equal. And a nation’s cultural preferences can lead to big differences in levels of tolerance. Studies have shown that products assessed to be “hot” in Europe can be the equivalent of “mild” in Asia. So it’s important to get to grips with how much heat your customers can handle.  

The Brits have a well documented love affair with spice, with 93% of consumers eating spicy meals at dinner and curry houses bringing in 4.2 billion pounds a year. The French market tends to be more traditional, favouring subtler and sweeter forms of spice that enhance flavour without the heat. Whereas the Swiss crowned Thai food their joint favourite exotic cuisine in 2019, thanks to its unique combination of sour, sweet, spicy and umami flavours.

Business opportunities

Manufacturing

  • Aim for the mainstream market by adding spicy twists to existing products - or go niche and create a product experience that gets foodies talking.
  • Consider how to include information about the heat source in marketing materials to help you differentiate.

Food service

  • Consumers are more comfortable experimenting with spicy flavours in savoury dishes they already know. Try building in a layer of spice to sour, sweet or tangy meals or create fusion dishes that let mainstream consumers enjoy a fresh twist on old favourites.
  • Consider adding a dish from popular spicy cuisines to your menu. Globally, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, and Thai are consumer favourites - or treat foodies to lesser known authentic flavours from Peru and Colombia.  

Retail

  • Consumers often want to cook the dishes they eat in restaurants at home - but it can be difficult to find these ingredients in mainstream supermarkets. See which products and ingredients are appearing in street food offers or new restaurant concepts and give them space on your shelves.
  • Give customers confidence to try something different by offering tastings of new spicy products, focusing on cult or locally-produced brands, and share ideas about how to use them in regionally popular dishes.

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