Indian-style cuisine, such as this chicken jalfrezi naan wrap, is growing in popularity with consumers.

Understanding chili peppers

As Wendy’s learned almost 20 years ago, chili peppers are varied and versatile. They are associated with the most popular international influences in today’s food industry. Grown around the world, chilies vary in flavor profile, from earthy to fruity to smoky.

Chili peppers range in heat levels, too. The guajillo and aji panca have the least amount of heat on the Scoville scale, while the Bhut Jolokia, the ghost pepper, is recognized as one of the hottest peppers in the world.

To add authenticity to chili peppers as well as other spices used in many ethnic cuisines, Culinary Farm in Woodland, Calif., uses a smoke roasting process that mimics the cooking techniques native to many regions. The chilies come in flake, ground and paste formats and can be used in topical seasonings, marinades and rubs.

“Our products are smoked with a proprietary blend of woods with no added artificial flavors or ingredients,” says Kirk Bewley, president of Culinary Farm.

Indeed, today’s adventurous consumers crave more than heat. “Consumers are moving away from just straight-heat flavor to more complex flavor profiles, where some flavors are subtle while others are characterizing,” Augustine says. “You get this in many ethnic cuisines, where chilies are blended with fresh herbs and spices indigenous to the region.”

In response to consumer demand for more specialized heat, Kalsec is growing its specialty pepper product line with new varieties including cayenne, pasilla and ghost pepper extract. These join ancho, guajillo, habanero, jalapeño and Szechuan.

Sensient has added Indian varietals to its chili collection. The collection includes Devanur chili, a medium heat, reddish-brown chili with an earthy-nutty note; Byadgi chili, a mild heat chili, with a bright red color and a pungent, but sweet flavor profile; and Teja chili, a very hot and deep red chili with a biting flavor that gives way to an underlying sweet/fruity profile. With three different heat, color and flavor profiles, these offerings help processors deliver bold Indian flavors to meat and poultry products.

“Today’s consumers not only want to experiment with flavor, they want to know exactly where their food comes from,” says Ryan Goularte, general manager at Sensient. “These chili peppers are grown in India using careful seed selection specific to regional cuisines, which offers our customers an authentic solution for the development of genuine Indian foods.”