Chipotle Mexican Grill is keeping carne asada on the menu in 2020. Introduced nationally in September, the fast-casual chain said sales of the new beef offering exceeded expectations. The company cooks the meat in small batches, cuts it into slices and seasons it with lime, finishing it with chopped cilantro and a blend of signature spices. The premium protein is compliant with a paleo diet and has been officially approved for the Whole30 program, inferring it is void of added sugars. It’s all about the spices.

A recent consumer survey conducted by Kalsec, Kalamazoo, Michigan, confirms that today’s diners are embracing such highly flavorful proteins. Hot-and-spicy foods are at an all-time high, with 95 percent of global consumers reporting they enjoy foods with a heat level of mild or above, according to Kalsec’s 2019 Spicy Perceptions eBook, which offers important insights for product innovation.

Key takeaways from the research include:

  • More than half of global consumers surveyed are eating spicier food more often than they were just one year ago. This number doubled compared to 2017 data.
  • Consumers are most comfortable trying new spicy flavors in familiar savory foods.
  • More than 60 percent of consumers surveyed agree that savory foods taste better with some level of spiciness.
  • They prefer to try spicy items as a main dish or entrée.
  • Heat level, in combination with other flavors, can inspire trial.
  • Research found that 48 percent of consumers are interested in trying spicy and sweet flavor combinations, while 39 percent of consumers are interested in spicy and tangy combinations. 
  • Research found the Asia-Pacific region has the highest tolerance for heat, followed by the Americas, then Europe. While consumers in the Asia-Pacific region eat the most amount of spicy foods, consumers in the Americas are most interested in trying new spicy flavors. 
  • Specificity of the heat source is important to consumers. More than half of global consumers surveyed agree that the source of heat, such as the specific pepper varietal, matters to them. In fact, knowing the pepper varietal matters most to consumers from the Americas and Asia-Pacific regions.

5 ingredient tip 2