Red-hot flavor innovation debuts

by Donna Berry
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Gallon jugs of original, green pepper and habanero Tabasco sauce
The McIlhenny Co. launched a spray dry version of the company's iconic Tabasco hot sauce.

CHICAGO — Heat is hot in the food world these days. This is being driven by millennials’ insatiable appetite for adventurous cuisine, as they crave complexity in the form of flavor fusion.

Hot sauce has become the go-to for adding that extra layer of flavor and some heat, turning everyday simple foods into something bold and exotic. In fact, according to The NPD Group, Port Washington, NY, 56 percent of US households have hot sauce on hand in their kitchens.

Consumers are not the only ones heating foods up. Food manufacturers and culinary professionals increasingly are turning to the condiment, which has actually become more of a cooking tool, to add dimension to foods. New opportunities are now possible with the introduction of a spray dry version of the original Louisiana hot sauce.

“Our new spray-dry flavor can readily be used in beverages, confections, dry mixes and snacks,” said Judson McLester, executive chef and manager of ingredient sales, McIlhenny Co., Avery Island, La. “For example, it can be applied topically to snack foods or baked into biscuits, crackers and even cookies. It can even be included in a glaze or filling, or a breading or batter.”

snack mix of pretzel, popcorn and Chex cereal 
New flavor opportunities are now possible with the introduction of a spray dry version of the original Louisiana hot sauce.

The new ingredient made its official debut on March 18 at a media- and customer-tasting event at Kendall College, Chicago. This week it will be sampled in varied prototypes at the Research Chefs Association’s 2015 Culinology Expo in New Orleans.

This concentrated flavor enhancer delivers the signature taste of aged Tabasco brand Original Red Sauce in a convenient dry format. Made with Tabasco pepper mash, salt, premium distilled vinegar and maltodextrin, the new spray dry version does not add moisture to applications. The fine flavor particles allow for greater surface contact and flavor distribution. The ingredient is completely soluble and has enhanced surface adhesion.

One prototype sampled at the Chicago event was a spicy lemon iced tea. The new dry-ingredient format allows the flavor and heat of Tabasco to readily dissolve and be dispersed throughout the beverage without any unappealing ringing or separation, which is what could occur if the liquid format were used.
The main course included prime rib au jus, with the au jus containing the Tabasco dry flavor. In this application, the ingredient’s addition was more about the taste than the heat.

McLester emphasized that in some applications, Tabasco ingredients are added solely for the umami taste.

Chef serving prime rib au jus flavored with Tabasco
At a media- and customer-tasting event, the main course was prime rib au jus, with the au jus containing the Tabasco dry flavor. In this application, the ingredient's addition was more about the taste than the heat.

“At low usage levels, you don’t really get the heat, rather the ingredient functions as a flavor enhancer,” he said.

In other applications, you get both. For example, a caramel popcorn crunch mix topically seasoned with a blend containing the dry Tabasco first delivers flavor, and then you get some heat. The same impact was experienced with an applewood bacon cheddar biscuit, where the Tabasco flavor and heat was delivered via a topical butter drizzle.

Naturally low in sodium, the dry ingredient can assist with sodium reduction in all types of foods.

“Once sodium is decreased from most any recipe, the flavor profile essentially collapses,” McLester said. “Salt is a backbone taste, and its replacement becomes quite difficult. The ingredients that work best are those that can lift numerous attributes in the recipe, including salt, sweet, acid and more. That’s what this ingredient does.”

The new dry format provides a heat intensity of 2,500 to 7,500 Scoville Heat Units, the standard measurement of capsicum, the heat source in peppers. McIlhenny Co. recommends using 0.15 percent to 1 percent of the spray dry form in finished products and 2.5 percent to 15 percent in seasoning bases. The kosher parve, Halal certified, gluten-free, fat-free and low-sodium ingredient comes in a 50-lb bag-in-box.

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