If you walk down the condiment aisle in a grocery store or look at the available sauces on a restaurant menu, you’re likely to find far more than staples like ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise. Nowadays, hot sauce has emerged as one of the most popular condiments, with a wide range of flavors, spanning multiple cuisines. With National Hot Sauce Day occurring on January 21, now is a great time for food brands to think about how they can incorporate hot sauce into their offerings.
While hot sauce tends to be associated with food like chicken wings and burritos, the uses seem to be endless. As hot sauce grows in popularity, food brands and consumers get continually creative and adventurous regarding what they put the condiment on.
Chicken still remains the top ingredient paired with hot sauce, according to Technomic, but vegetables like spinach and bell peppers are among the fastest-growing ingredients used with the condiment. French fries also crack the list of fastest-growing ingredients paired with hot sauce, indicating many consumers are willing to expand beyond the usual dipping sauces.
Quick service restaurants tend to use hot sauce the most, but the condiment is not limited to any one category of dining establishment, finds Technomic. For example, high-end casual dining chains are also starting to pair hot sauce with everything from lobster to mashed potatoes to mahi mahi.
Experimenting With Flavors
Part of the reason why hot sauce can be applied to so many different types of dishes comes down to the variety of flavors within the category. For example, Asian sriracha sauces combine spicy and sweet flavors, whereas Mexican hot sauce brands like Cholula tend to be more savory, Mintel notes. However, Cholula introduced a hot sauce sweetened with pineapple in 2018, and the use of fruits and vegetables within hot sauces could grow further.
As a leader in providing culinary inspired, value-added seasonings, we’ve previously partnered with Brooklyn’s Heatonist to develop authentic global hot sauce flavors. The Heatonist, is an e-commerce hot sauce marketplace that puts this innovative range of hot sauce flavors on full display. For example, the site sells a peach-yellow pepper-red chili hot sauce, a collaboration from Dawson’s Hot Sauce and Brooklyn band Iris Lune. Another brand, Bravado, sells a ghost chili and blueberry hot sauce through Heatonist.
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In addition to spicy-sweet combos, hot sauce manufacturers and other food brands are also finding ways to incorporate other unique flavors and ingredients, including those that provide umami. For example, hot sauce brand Dawson’s offers a creamy hot sauce that incorporates cremini mushrooms. Technomic also notes that innovative chefs are incorporating premium ingredients like truffles into their hot sauces.
Considering hot sauce tends to be a low-calorie condiment, it could continue to grow among health-conscious consumers. But consumers aren’t just counting calories. Many consumers focus on wholesomeness, seeking authentic, natural flavors over artificial ones.
As Mintel notes, since some sriracha brands use refined sugars, others are offering more natural sauces, such as those that do not add sugar or use alternative, plant-based sweeteners. However, these sauces do not always win on taste. That’s why Mintel sees an opening for Mexican hot sauces sweetened with fruit, for example.
A Hot Market for Food Brands
Hot sauce is one of the most versatile condiments, which translates into significant potential for food brands to offer varieties that excite consumers. Hot sauce can range from traditional recipes that mainly comprise chiles and vinegar, to more innovative blends that combine chiles with fruits and vegetables. Sauces can also include flavors that pair well with different types of cuisines, ranging from Latin to Southeast Asian to Middle Eastern.
Ultimately, brands have a lot of freedom to appeal to consumers with different types of natural, creative hot sauces that they can use to spice up their meals.
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This article has been updated from November 3, 2020.