Hot and Spicy Flavors Flare Across Culinary Landscape

Hot and spicy flavors are in the culinary spotlight and growing in broad appeal, according to the recently released Heat & Spice: Culinary Trend Mapping Report by market research publisher Packaged Facts and San Francisco-based strategic food and beverage agency CCD Innovation.

Heat and spice have been exciting palates for millennia, motivating explorers and merchants to circle the earth to discover new sources of seeds, roots, barks and fruit to turn into flavor enhancers. Spices have also had an important healthful role, lending their nutrients to medicinal brews and home kitchen remedies. Today, restaurant chefs and domestic cooks are seeking out these ingredients with fresh fervor to create full-flavored food, often based on authentic regional recipes that are budget-friendly and healthful to boot.

“Now more than ever heat and spice can play an upfront strategic role to differentiate familiar products or to attract specific consumer segments and demographics,” says Kimberly Egan, CEO of CCD Innovation. “There are endless ways for restaurant operators and food manufacturers to mix and match flavorful ingredients to enhance the consumer experience and drive powerful innovation.”

Heat & Spice: Culinary Trend Mapping Report situates the following flavor trends along CCD Innovation’s proprietary five-stage Trend Mapping®. Stage 1 signifies that a trend is just gaining traction among creative chefs and adventurous diners, while Stage 5 indicates complete absorption into the mainstream and presence on quick service menus and grocery store shelves.

  • Stage 1: Smoke in New Places: At the root of the bacon craze that has swept the nation is a deep smoky flavor that drives people wild. Familiar smoked foods have all moved to the forefront of our menu choices; now it’s time for smoke flavor to move on to new, creative venues like drinks and desserts.
  • Stage 1: Aleppo Pepper & Co.: A moderately hot pepper, the Aleppo is named after the largest city in Syria. As consumers seek more sources of heat and spicy flavor, Aleppo has come onto the scene in a variety of places. The use and acceptance of Aleppo pepper and other Middle Eastern flavors is a sign of the continuing globalization of our pantry.
  • Stage 2: Hatch Chiles. Hatch doesn’t refer to one specific pepper but rather a species of cultivated chile peppers that grow in and around Hatch, New Mexico. The Hatch chile trend is about celebrating authentic flavors and highlighting regional specialties in menu and product development.
  • Stage 2: Gochujang. Korean food has become one of today’s hottest cuisines, and with it the fermented chile-based condiment gochujang. Originally almost exclusively a homemade condiment, packaged gochujang is just now becoming more available, opening up the doors of flavorful possibilities.
  • Stage 3: Spicy Sips. Big, bold flavors are found in every food category, including a new surge in the beverage sector. Going far beyond the Bloody Mary, new beverage incarnations use ingredients like cayenne, capsaicin, black pepper, ginger and wasabi. Whether it’s flavor driven or health driven or both, spicy beverages are making a mark.
  • Stage 4: Healthful Spices. Long intrinsic in many global cultures, the notion that spices are an important part of being healthy is taking deeper root in the American marketplace. The key to tapping into this shift is creating opportunities for consumers to incorporate healthy spices more extensively into their diets in a tasteful, natural, and fresh way.
  • Stage 5: Buffalo Flavor. Chicken wings are the classic application, but buffalo flavor and its partner in crime, blue cheese, now seem to go hand in hand across the menu. According to Datassential MenuTrends, buffalo sauce penetration is at about 33% overall in restaurants, with casual leading at 37.7% and fine dining the lowest at 19.8%. The popularity and prevalence of buffalo sauce in all day parts and diets lands it at Stage 5 mainstream status. You almost can’t go wrong with buffalo flavor for a wide swath of fans.

For more information on Heat & Spice: Culinary Trend Mapping Report, please visit:

The Culinary Trend Mapping Report is co-published by the CCD Innovation and Packaged Facts. Individual issues and annual subscriptions are available at