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Spicy snacks remain popular as summer heats up

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Spicy foods consumption has grown year after year, but hot foods are predicted to be an especially hot trend in coming months.

A trip down the snack aisle has always held shelves of sweet and savory selections, but recent years have seen a spike in the amount of spicy options for consumers who can’t seem to get enough heat in their treats. 

The Whole Foods Market Trends Council identified spicy flavors as one of its five major flavor trends for summer 2022, particularly in the condiment category. Chili varieties from ancho to cayenne are increasingly popular. This trend is a reflection of a global shift toward spicy options. You Magazine identified a parallel 2022 trend in U.K. consumption: “The supermarket has also seen sales of sriracha sauce skyrocket by 110% since 2019. Over a third of people (36%) have introduced chili into their diets in the last two years, and 70% now say they love spicy food – with Glaswegians the biggest chili lovers.” 

According to Kalsec, “In a recent survey of U.S. consumers ages 18 and older, 80% of consumers now enjoy hot and spicy foods. Over half of those surveyed eat spicy foods at least once a week. In addition, the frequency of consumption and heat levels of hot and spicy foods continues to rise.” In 2019 (the last year it performed this survey), Kalsec identified a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) in hot and spicy product launches of roughly 20% over the previous decade, with every single year showing a steady increase. 

“These flavors have generally always been trendy,” said Shannon Cushen, director of marketing for Fuchs North America. “But the ways that trend has manifested have continued to change. So, we’ve always had brands interested in hot and spicy flavors, but the kinds of hot and spicy flavors they’re looking for has changed to reflect consumers’ tastes. These days, we’re seeing a lot of demand for spicy flavors inspired by global cuisines, as well as hot flavors featuring unique and exotic peppers.” These trends evidence the NPD’s 2021 prediction that consumers would look to an increasingly varied range of cuisines, such as Indian and Pan Asian, to satisfy their desire for spicy foods. 

“The hotter the better,” asserted Sally Lyons Wyatt, IRI EVP and practice leader, in a recent webinar. In fact, heat-seekers continue to search out escalating thrills in the world of mouth-tingling treats. Paqui is a chip and snack brand known for its “one chip challenge,” in which participants eat a single, intensely spicy chip flavored with Carolina Reaper and scorpion peppers without eating or drinking anything to combat the heat. In January, three California high school students were hospitalized after attempting the one chip challenge. Such incidents appear to be isolated, however, and certainly have not slowed consumer desire for hot snacks and spicy novelties. 

Although not all consumers are daredevils when it comes to the world of spicy snacks, the trend in scorching flavors shows no signs of slowing down as summer 2022 begins to heat up. 

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