Flavors / Ingredient Trends / Ingredients and Formulation / R&D

Flavor Trends Favor Spicy and Sweet at the Same Time

As consumers broaden their culinary horizons, the demand for sweet, spicy and savory food combinations is growing.

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Sweet-savory foods tantalize consumers' taste buds; that's why they're so popular in restaurants. And lately, the hotter the spice, the better. Brand owners and food formulators have more options in sweeteners and spices and are incorporating them into bolder-flavored products with more vegetable servings and less fat, sugar and processed ingredients.

Consumers want tasty snacks, drinks and other prepared foods that are healthy but are still satisfying. One of the definitive examples is
Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili Flavored Tortilla Chips from Frito-Lay (www.fritolay.com) create a "sweet heat" snack experience with what the company describes as natural flavors. Though they're natural, they're bold. The chips start out tasting sweet with a cheese flavor and finish with that kick of heat that resembles a barbecue taste.

Spicy and savory is also moving into the dairy aisle with a limited-edition Heluva Good! Dip from HP Hood's Heluva Good (heluvagood.com) subsidiary, flavored with Tabasco brand Original Red Sauce from McIlhenny Co. (www.tabasco.com), Avery Island, La. The dip's bold, peppery new flavor combines the iconic Tabasco seasoning with rich, creamy sour cream.

Heluva Good! partnered with the Tabasco brand to develop this hot and spicy addition for dairy cases throughout the Northeast, Southeast and Midwest. "Heluva Good! Dips are known for bold, mouthwatering flavors, so the introduction of limited-edition Tabasco flavor is a natural fit," said Sarah Barow, spokesperson for Heluva Good. "This new flavor will spice up any backyard barbecue or picnic with friends and family."

Adds Jason West, McIlhenny Co.'s chief marketing officer, "Big, bold flavor is at the heart of everything we do at McIlhenny, so we are very excited to be partnering with Heluva Good to bring our signature flavor to the dairy case. As we head into the summer barbecue season, we look forward to seeing all of the ways consumers put this dip to use."

Other sweet and spicy pairings include Think Jerky's grass-fed, free-range, gluten/nitrite-free jerky, with its intriguing flavor combinations of Sweet Chipotle with raspberries, Ginger Orange and Sriracha Honey. And Shearer's Snacks' (www.shearers.com) Riceworks gourmet rice chips in Sweet Chili are not only free of preservatives, trans fat and gluten, they're crunchy and indulgent on flavor. The Sweet Chili crisps start out sweet and mild, then ignite a chili kick that lingers.

Stouffer's (www.stouffers.com) new FitKitchen meals from Nestle pack in a good amount of protein (25g or more) as they amp up the flavor of frozen microwavable entrees. The sweet and spicy Steak Fajita variety includes seared steak, red and green bell peppers, corn, brown rice and black beans in a smoked red chili sauce. The Bourbon Steak version features flavorful bourbon seared steak, chipotle mashed sweet potatoes, broccoli and red peppers. All six make for delicious, nutritious and satisfying meals.

Certain spicy foods can ward off hunger and control intake of sweets, so we eat less. Cayenne pepper and chilis are natural appetite suppressants, says the Journal of Physiology & Behavior.

Not for the faint of heart, however, Mrs. Renfro’s Ghost Pepper Salsa may terrify the tastebuds, but it's the Fort Worth, Tex. company’s (www.renfrofoods.com) fastest growing product. With its jalapeno, green chiles and ghost peppers, Mrs. Renfro's salsas can be used as sauces and marinades in everyday recipes. Likewise, Chicago's Sweet Baby Ray's Sweet 'n Spicy Barbecue Sauce (sweetbabyrays.com) blends jalapeños with molasses and tomatoes for sweetness to produce some extra kick at mealtime by taking ribs, chicken, shrimp and more to new, fiery heights. And it's gluten-free.

Sweet and spicy is now flavoring all sorts of foods, such as burgers, chicken wings, pizza, cheese, crackers, bread and even chocolate. Why do we want such hot, sweet, spicy flavors that put sweat on our foreheads? People like new, more complex flavors today and are looking beyond the regular standbys. This is especially true of millennials with their adventurous tastes, according to Mintel data. So have an adventure, and feast on something sweet and spicy.