KANSAS CITY — Fiery flavors are exploding on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus across the nation. Spicy flavor profiles are showing up in everything from snacks and sandwiches to sauces and sweets.
This heatwave is part of a “spicy revolution,” according to McCormick Flavor Solutions’ Flavor Forecast released Oct. 14. The theme could bring growth to multi-dimensional heat trends like chilies obsession, heat plus tang and sweet on pepper, the report said. Expect creative pairings of heat to appear in cocktails, baked foods and marinades. Aji amarillo, guajillo, Tien Tsin and chili de arbol are chilies to watch as they offer a unique level of heat and a distinctive flavor. Chamoy sauce from Mexico and sambal sauce from Southeast Asia could combine to offer heat plus tang. Sweet ingredients like syrups and exotic fruit could temper pepper’s bite.
Two spicy standout ingredients in new offerings are ghost peppers and Carolina Reaper peppers, two of the world’s hottest peppers. The ghost pepper appears in a new chili, donut, pizza and chicken sandwich. The Carolina Reaper pepper lends its heat to chili, tortilla chips and chicken wings.
Among recent spicy CPG product and menu item innovation, three trends have emerged: extreme heat, brand partnerships, and sweet heat offerings.
CPG manufacturers dialed up the heat in 2020, claiming to create the “world’s hottest chili,” “world’s hottest chip” and “hottest ever” Cheetos product.
Hormel Foods Corp. in October launched limited-edition Hormel Ghost Reaper World’s Hottest Chili with Beans. The offering features Hormel’s signature chili with beans plus ghost pepper and Carolina reaper pepper.
"Chili is a dish that can be enjoyed so many different ways, whether it's straight out of the bowl, on a hot dog, incorporated into dips and other recipes, or as a pour on for a quick and delicious dinner upgrade," said Sarah Johnson, Hormel chili brand manager. "However fans want to enjoy their chili, for a short time they can lay stake to a pretty bold claim: that they've tasted the hottest canned chili in the world."
The Hershey Co.’s Paqui Tortilla Chips brand brought back its One Chip Challenge in September with a new recipe of its “world’s hottest chip,” the company said. The all-black, individually packaged tortilla chip stars the Carolina Reaper pepper and packs a new punch from Scorpion Pepper and Sichuan Peppercorn.
"The #OneChipChallenge is back with a vengeance and ready to deliver a knockout with the addition of Sichuan Peppercorn, known for producing numbing and tingling sensations," said Paqui brand manager Caitlin Moralic.
PepsiCo, Inc.’s Frito-Lay North America business unit in June introduced what the company calls its “hottest ever” Cheetos product, Cheetos Flamin’ Hot Pepper Puffs. Shaped like chili peppers, the spicy snack puffs are made with enriched corn meal and feature a dusting of red-colored Flamin’ Hot seasoning.
Brand collaborations brought about a spate of spicy innovation this year. In October, Subway debuted Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Chicken Sandwich, featuring chicken strips in a buffalo sauce made with Frank’s RedHot sauce. Blaze Pizza began serving the new Blazin’ Hot Chicken Pizza, which is drizzled with Frank’s RedHot sauce.
Qdoba partnered with Cholula in October to launch Cholula Hot & Sweet Chicken, made with grilled chicken tossed in a blend of Cholula hot sauce and honey. Del Taco debuted six new menu items featuring Cholula hot sauce: Cholula Crispy Chicken Taco, Epic Cholula Crispy Chicken Burrito, Cholula Loaded Fries, Cholula Egg & Cheese Breakfast Roller, Cholula Chorizo Breakfast Roller and Cholula Bacon Breakfast Roller.
In May, Dog Haus debuted the OG Cholula Burger, featuring Cholula brown sugar bacon, Cholula onion jam and Cholula mayo.
Quiznos in February introduced the Cajun Lobster Sub, featuring Cajun aioli made with Cholula hot sauce.
In October, Your Pie rolled out its new Craft Series lineup, including Hot Honey Pepperoni Pizza, Sweet Heat Pepper Pasta and Kickin Pepperoni Sticks, all featuring Mike’s Hot Honey.
PepsiCo, Inc.’s Mtn Dew brand recently joined forces with Houston-based hot sauce purveyor iBurn and 76ers player Joel Embiid to create Joel Embiid’s Hot Habanero Mtn Dew Hot Sauce. The condiment features the fiery flavor of habanero with the Mtn Dew taste of citrus.
In April, Taco Bell teamed with PepsiCo to serve the new Flamin’ Hot Doritos Locos Taco, featuring a Doritos shell with Flamin’ Hot flavoring.
Several new offerings feature sweet heat flavor profiles, with sweet ingredients like honey and fruit balancing spicy ingredients like chilies and peppers.
In October, Dunkin’ debuted the new Spicy Ghost Pepper Donut. The classic yeast donut ring is topped with a strawberry flavored icing that features a blend of cayenne and ghost pepper and is finished with red sanding sugar.
Diageo, maker of Smirnoff, expanded availability of its Smirnoff Spicy Tamarind vodka in October. Containing 35% alcohol by volume (ABV), the beverage features a sweet tamarind flavor with notes of spicy Mexican chilies and lime.
In July, Wenzel’s Farm introduced Mango Habanero Snack Sticks and Mod Pizza introduced the Sweet Heat Pineapple Salad, featuring pineapple, Mama Lil's sweet hot pickled peppers and honey lime dressing.
IHOP introduced the Kickin’ Maple Chicken BreakFEAST in June. The meal includes a maple sweet and spicy syrup.
In April, Walmart Inc. bolstered its Great Value ice cream portfolio with Mango Habanero Coconut Ice Cream. The treat features spicy habanero mango sorbet swirled with sweet coconut ice cream.
Bob Evans’ Rise & Shine Burger, which debuted in February features a spicy maple honey.
The Kraft Heinz Co. in January unveiled Heinz HoneyRacha, which the company described as the “perfect marriage of sweet and spicy.” It pairs honey with sriracha, a hot sauce made from a paste of chili peppers, distilled vinegar, garlic, sugar and salt.