Holy jalapeno! How hot will menus get?

There was a time when an all-American menu was like a restaurant magnet.
July 18, 2014
July 22, 2014

The temperature isn’t the only thing rising this summer. Restaurant dishes are too, courtesy of increasingly ubiquitous ingredients such as Sriracha and jalapenos.

The demand for a little heat picked up a little bit around 2006.

However, menus began to cool in 2008, when a salmonella outbreak was traced back to jalapenos. Fast forward a few years and restaurant concepts across every segment are not only bringing back the heat, but dialing it up a few notches.

Pizza brands jumped on board, too. Some menus have incorporated jalapeno-infused pepperoni as well as fresh-diced jalapenos.

Sriracha ‘skyrockets’

Jalapenos aren’t the only ingredient setting mouths ablaze.  In January the U.S. hot sauce market had grown 150 percent since 2000. As with the growth in jalapenos, many analysts attribute the growth in Sriracha to the adventurous palate of younger generations, as well as its versatility.

Some believe the reason Sriracha sauce and jalapenos have become so popular reflects consumers’ growing preference for pepper flavor and heat. They can be applied to a wide range of products that cover every QSR menu day-part, whether it’s breakfast, lunch, afternoon, dinner or late night.

Whereas jalapenos used to be found mostly on spicy-focused concepts, they are now found on every day menus at brands as large as McDonald’s and Subway.

Part of a larger trend – ethnicity and diversity

According to additional information, jalapeno mentions have grown by 3 percent on unique menus across all segments in the past year. Overall, jalapenos have grown by 8 percent on unique chain menus across all segments in the same time period, and 3 percent on independent menus.

Overall, jalapenos have grown 100 percent in terms of item percentage across all segments, from 1 to 2 percent in the past year. They are now available at 35 percent of all locations, up from 25 percent a year ago.

It’s believed the rise in jalapeno mentions is part of an overall theme we’ve noticed in the growth of spicy ingredients. This is also being fueled by the alignment of two larger themes – growth in ethnic flavors in more diverse segments, and the need for operators to market to Millennials that crave more adventurous flavors.

Spicy is becoming more approachable, and lends itself to interaction, another Millennial-driven trend.

With spicy it’s fun.  You can put some in the food and some on the side and let customers dial it up as much as they want. It allows them to interact with their food.

With that said, these ingredients may very well be just the tip of the iceberg (heatberg?).

Foodservice providers would be wise to experiment with other pepper sauces to set themselves apart from the Sriracha-selling pack. Consider alternative peppers such as Anaheim, Peppadew or Poblano to stand out from the pack, or explore different applications that haven’t yet been widely covered.

Source:  fastcasual.com, 7-16-2014

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