Some like it hot: Chili peppers spice up cuisine and candy

Americans are increasingly embracing the heat of spicy chilies from Mexican and South American cuisines, opening new opportunities for authentic regional flavors and Latin fusion foods, Prepared Foods reports.

Trends from fine dining continue to influence food manufacturing, and a range of chilies is adding heat and flavor to menus, including jalapeno, serrano, habanero, poblano, and green and red New Mexico chilies. Milder Anaheim chilies and dried varieties like guajillo, pasilla, ancho, morita and cascabel are also popular.

More sophisticated flavor profiles and lesser known regional flavors from Peru and Colombia are coming to the fore, bringing opportunities for food makers to experiment with combinations of hot and spicy or savory flavors, as well as hot and sweet flavors.

Hot and spicy is here to stay, as U.S. consumers have moved beyond a love of hot sauce to more authentic ethnic flavors and dishes. The trend has been driven on one hand by millennials looking for exciting food experiences, and on the other by foodies and older consumers who want to cut sodium, fats and sugars without sacrificing flavor.

For manufacturers, the challenge is finding a balance between the spiciness that mainstream consumers crave and the extreme heat that a small but very influential segment of the population enjoys. Americans increasingly are interested in exploring authentic flavors, although some may still be intimidated by very traditional foods. While chilies and flavors from particular regions are gaining interest, an increasingly interconnected world is opening up other flavor possibilities, including fusions of different Latin cuisines, as well as Mexican and South American flavors modified to appeal to a more mainstream American palate.

This brings opportunities for experimentation with fresh, pickled, charred and roasted flavors combined with regional chili varieties, in products like sauces, salsas and marinades, as well as in meats, mains, soups and sides. As consumers continue to enjoy a more diverse range of chili peppers and ethnic flavors, new spicy flavor combinations are emerging for manufacturers in all food categories.

Sweet-heat flavor combinations already have emerged as a strong trend in snacks, from sweet chili potato chips to sweet and spicy Asian barbecue. And the trend has made an appearance in candy too, with Sweet Heat Skittles and Sweet Heat Starbursts that feature flavors like Fiery Watermelon and Flamin’ Orange.

Source: Some like it hot: Chili peppers spice up cuisine and candy