The spicy food trend is about more than appealing to personal taste; it’s about offering a bold option for your most fearless consumers. It is being driven by consumers’ growing interest in international flavors, which some experts attribute to a collective desire for new experiences in the wake of COVID lockdowns. Spicy foods are becoming progressively more popular, those who can ‘handle the heat’ wear their tolerance like a badge of honor.
Describing the flavor of a chili pepper is challenging because there are over 200 varieties of chili peppers, and each variety has its own unique flavor (ranging from sweet to smokey).
Sweet – Typically the larger chili pepper varieties. These tend to be the mildest.
Hotness – Typically the smaller chili pepper varieties. These tend to be the hottest.
Why Do People Like Heat?
Chili peppers contain a compound called capsaicin and this compound is what causes your mouth to burn when you eat one. When you ingest capsaicin, the pain receptors in your brain are triggered to signal danger and endorphins are released (these are your ‘happy hormones’). Some theorize that people who like spicy food become ‘hooked’ on it because of this hormonal rush. Evidence also suggests that people may like spicy food because they’re attracted to the thrill that comes from feeling like they’re in danger when they know that they’re not actually in any danger at all (like the feeling you get when you ride a roller coaster or watch a scary movie).
How is Heat Measured?
The most common unit of measurement for heat in chilis and peppers is Scoville Heat Units (SHU). With peppers ranging from 0 to 2,000,000 SHUs, this scale is exact and great for food production and testing, albeit a bit complicated. As spicy foods increase in popularity, so do specific flavors. Consumers are not just selecting products based on heat level; now, they prefer specific flavors such as Cayenne, jalapeno, and habanero. Industry trends suggest that heat will become less of a focus for brands; meanwhile, products with complex chili pepper flavors will take center stage to appeal to a larger demographic.
Quality, Sourcing & Safety
For food manufacturers, the biggest challenge that arises when handling chili peppers is consistency. It is imperative to have a reliable supplier for chili peppers to ensure product consistency in heat and flavor. Sourcing from different suppliers may result in the product being unpredictable. Weather variables, sourcing, processing techniques, and storage conditions all affect the heat and flavor of chili peppers, so do your research before choosing a supplier.
The Velvette Company is dedicated to sourcing locally from farmers. We verify that our suppliers follow strict production, quality assurance and food safety processes that ensure pure products free of contaminants, adulterants, and a flavorful addition to your favorite dishes. Due to the complexity of the spice supply chain, it is very important that we have a formal vetting process for all our suppliers.
When it comes to African chilies there’s always one burning question on everyone’s minds: “How hot is ‘hot’?
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