Sweet fruits like mango pair well with many chiles and spices.

Opposites attract

With the sweet heat trend, it’s not just sweet, as in sugar. Rather, sauces are being formulated to have flavorful sweetness.

“This trend has been around for quite some time, but we’re seeing it combine in a more global way,” Lane said. “We’re now seeing Mexican chilis combined with agave, Indian chilis with maple syrup and Middle Eastern flavors with honey.”

Jean Heimann, culinary scientist for LifeSpice Ingredients, said, “Vinegars are being bourbon barrel aged or aged with maple to make subtle caramel notes. Floral honey, such as buckwheat, adds a characterizing molasses and slightly smoky flavor.”

Chili Rocks offers a variety of hot sauces, including CoCo Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce.
Toasted coconut is what Geo Phelps, owner of Chili Rocks in Cincinnati, uses in his CoCo Ghost Pepper Hot Sauce. The sweetness of the coconut helps lessen the heat of habanero and ghost chilis.

All types of peppers remain popular in sauces, though regional chilis, often those that are hard to find in the mainstream supermarket, enable marketers to differentiate products beyond the hot sauce condiment.

“Aji panca from Peru, cascabel from Mexico, urfa chili from Turkey, and even the perennial Hatch green chili from New Mexico — all of these have really gained momentum this past year,” Lane said. “Each of these chilis has a unique flavor profile. Typically adding a creamy or cheesy note works well to temper their heat and allow their flavor to be appreciated. Sometimes adding a sweet note helps balance flavor, too.”

Guajillo chile has dark berry notes while the aji pepper has a sweet flavor profile somewhere between a cooked mango and an apricot.
“Many of these peppers impart actual flavor rather than just heat,” added Scott Walnofer, senior director of culinary for Kerry. “Guajillo chili has dark berry notes while the aji pepper has a sweet flavor profile somewhere between a cooked mango and an apricot.”

Jerry McDonald, vice president of culinary for MiDAS Foods International, said, “People are demanding specific chilis by name and also moving beyond the simple pairing of sweet and heat. There is great demand for depth of flavors, paired with the heat. Fermented, pickled and cured flavors can provide depth to the heat. Bright flavors, too, pair well with heat. This includes citrus, Earl Grey tea, sakura, cilantro, ginger and coriander.”