Kickin' it up a notch

by Donna Berry
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 Ingredients
Today, hot and spicy are expected flavors in American diets.
 

With sriracha mainstream, culinary professionals are exploring new flavorful ingredients to turn up the heat in meat and poultry. They are looking for global and regional recipes to layer in familiar flavors with bold spices.

“An increasingly multicultural population, more frequent global travel and changing demographics are mega-trends leading the charge for American consumers’ desire for hot and spicy flavors,” says Colleen McDonald, marketing manager, Wixon Inc., St. Francis, Wisconsin. “Food trucks, where flavor fusion and food mash-ups are standard fare, are a great example of the convergence of these mega-trends.”

Shannon Cushen, director of marketing, Fuchs North America, Hampstead, Maryland, says, “The push for hot and spicy flavors is really being driven by millennials. They’re adventurous eaters, and they are open to new and exciting ingredients, including different types of peppers. Anything that delivers that addictive heat is going to win with millennials.

“What is interesting about hot and spicy foods is that sometimes it is more about the challenge or experience of eating them, than it is about the flavor itself,” she says.

This exploration of heat has resulted in consumers’ tolerance of heat improving during the past decade. What qualifies as hot and spicy continues to evolve.

“Americans have grown to love hot and spicy food,” says Andrew Hunter, foodservice and industrial corporate chef, Kikkoman Sales USA Inc., San Francisco. “Ingredients that were once considered cutting-edge and daring, like chipotle chilis – let’s call them ‘Hot and Spicy 1.0’ and sriracha – ‘Hot and Spicy 2.0,’ are woven into our diets and our recipes. They’re an expected part of today’s flavor pantry.

“Hot and spicy is more than just a trend. It’s part of who we are and what we eat today,” Hunter says. “Balance and dimension are the next big thing in hot and spicy food. I call that ‘Hot & Spicy 3.0.’”

“There’s an increasing interest in what we’re calling ‘sensory overload’ in the food landscape today,” says Roger Lane, marketing manager of savory flavors, Sensient Flavors, Hoffman Estates, Illinois. “Hot and spicy flavors connect with consumers in a way that a standard flavor cannot. It’s the nose clearing, the tongue tingling and even the burning on their fingers that gets them excited about eating something spicy.”

The culinary experts with Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, San Francisco, agree that heat – but unique layers of heat melded with global flavors – is where the action is. In its 2017 forecast of flavor trends, the experts identified “Turning Up the Heat” and “Spicing It Up,” with cardamom, cumin and turmeric gaining momentum as spices that add an extra kick to any dish.

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