Heat rises: the growth of spicy flavors on menus
Once reserved for only the most daring of diners, ‘spicy’ has officially gone mainstream. A majority of Americans (54 percent) now prefer hot or spicy foods, sauces, dips and condiments—up from 48 percent in 2011 and 46 percent in 2009. The appeal of hot and spicy foods is highest among 18–34-year-olds (60%). Additionally, a market research firm reports that, during a recent six-month period, the incidence of hot/spicy items on quick-service and fast-casual restaurants expanded from half to 75% of all locations.
Clearly, there has never been a better time to dial up the heat in your sandwiches, burgers and wraps. Just as the fast food industry has discovered, adding flavors such as chipotle, habanero and sriracha can bring new excitement to your menu—and new patrons to your establishment in search of a spicy kick. Speaking of sriracha, it’s the current heavyweight champ of the spicy food trend, up 80% on restaurant menus in the last year alone. The simple addition of this one ingredient to an offering could be just what you need to light up orders.
But the temperature-pushing possibilities go well beyond the traditional favorites. Some of the new flavors that cutting-edge chefs are using to spice up their menus, revealing such exotic options as gochujang, harissa, togarashi and shishito peppers. Need an idea to get started? Creating menu offerings with on-trend ingredients is a sure-fire way to establish yourself as an innovator in the spicy category. Quick hint: don’t forget to use descriptors such as “spicy” and “hot” when naming any new offerings that feature these food-forward ingredients, especially since most are unfamiliar to the average consumer.
It’s important to remember too that spicy isn’t just about adding heat. It’s as much about satisfying patrons’ desires for new flavor experiences.