Another of the company's products, Venom, boasts a warning label indicating it's "the hottest salt in the world." Not for the faint of heart, Venom is crafted to produce a flaming-hot, scorching flavor, made with light, flaky sea salt and Trinidad scorpion peppers, said to be hotter than ghost peppers. "It's suitable for manufacturers looking to add a lot of spice to hot sauce-branded items and other on-trend pepper products, from snack foods to spice rubs," says Saltworks' Megan O'Keefe.
One of the company's most in-demand flavors, Fusion Sriracha Sea Salt combines the bold, tangy heat of Thai sriracha chili sauce with pure, crunchy flake sea salt. Other hot salts are chipotle, habanero, ghost pepper and jalapeno. Saltworks also makes cooler but equally unusual salts in black truffle, espresso and matcha, among others.
Candy also has its own spin on spicy. One of Mars' three new peanut M&M flavors hitting store shelves this spring is Chili Nut (along with Honey Nut and Coffee Nut). The sweet heat of Chili Nut was a standout during testing, Mars says, and was a leading flavor concept in focus groups.
Flavorful hot is in, Schaefer says. "The Mexican chili varietals and international hot sauces are starting to gain a lot of momentum," he points out. "They have heat with good flavor depth, so it’s not just hot for hot's sake. Sriracha and Gochujang, Harissa and Sambal Oelek are starting to enter that adaptation phase of a trend."
'Punching bland in the face'
It's happening in mainstream foodservice, as well. Burger King in 2009 introduced the Angry Whopper, with spicy crispy onions, jalapeños, pepper jack cheese, bacon, tomatoes, lettuce, mayonnaise and spicy "Angry Sauce." But that wasn't hot enough. The chain recently unleashed the Angriest Whopper − a grilled beef patty featuring, "angry" onion petals, jalapenos and a spicy "angry" sauce described as "intense," all couched between a bright red bun with hot sauce literally baked into it.
What fast-food chain doesn't have a spicy chicken sandwich? Buffalo Wild Wings and Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen were founded on spicy chicken.
New sauces from Lee Kum Kee hit stores nationwide in March. The Sriracha BBQ sauce adds a tasty kick to chicken and pulled pork or as a dip or marinade. The Sriracha Stir-Fry Sauce and Panda brand Ready Sauce for Honey Sesame Chicken can jazz up vegetables, upgrade shrimp cocktail and create authentic Chinese-style dishes in minutes. Panda Ready Sauce for Korean BBQ Stir-Fry gives classic Chinese entrees real zip.
Korean BBQ is also a new sweet and spicy flavor of Jack Link's flame-grilled pork jerky, which, after a special new process is finished over an open flame to provide an authentic aroma and highlight flavors of the pork, double toasted sesame seeds and caramelized brown sugar.
Indian food hits hot flavor buttons and fits in with the healthy trend, as many choices include fruits and vegetables as well as bold, exciting flavors and spices. Saffron Road's simmer sauces in pouches incorporate enough spices to fill a bazaar. They include Harissa, made from piri piri red peppers, Korean Stir Fry, containing pungent Korean gochugaru peppers and smoky Moroccan, with dates, tamarind, turmeric and paprika.
There are many reasons why hot food is firing up so many food market channels, sums up Stuckey. There are far more ethnic restaurants and packaged food brands, consumers are more food savvy, and there's a great influx of immigrants who love chilis, curry, pepper and mole sauces from around the world.