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As adventurous consumers demand more from the snacking category, brands and manufacturers are propelled to develop new variants of heat to satisfy their curiosity. Flamin’ hot foods and spice innovation continue to gather speed as consumers seek new explosions of flavor.

Speaking to FoodIngredientsFirst, Andrew Bingham, applications scientist at Kalsec Europe, says consumers are intrigued to experience new and heightened heat levels in food, whether from specific pepper flavors such as chipotle and habanero or even unfamiliar flavor profiles.

The low price point of snacks contributes to the speed with which the category evolves in flavors and ingredients, he states.

“Regardless of the latest health trends, Kalsec’s primary consumer research tells us that taste is consistently the number one purchase influence.”

Kalsec has noted a boom in products across the chili range from those low in Scoville units to those with excessive spicy levels, such as Trinidad Scorpion, Ghost and Carolina Reaper peppers.

The low price point of snacks contributes to the speed with which the category is evolving, according to Kalsec. The company is also seeing continued interest in products with little or no heat, allowing specific pepper flavor profiles to come through in the end application or be paired with other ingredients for an unusual flavor.

Spicing it up
According to Innova Market Insights, hybrid flavor innovation is increasingly being used to deliver new sensory experiences as consumers become progressively adventurous.

“Elevating a familiar seasoning or snack flavor to provide a new twist can allow product developers to create a snack with added value, but that also appeals to the mainstream consumer, such as a seasoning like an Indian curry lentil snack, or a provenance chili,” Bingham explains.

According to Innova Market Insights, chili is the leading flavor accounting for 31.8% of launches in 2020. The flavor has an average annual growth rate of more than 26.9% CAGR.

Food and beverages with unusual ingredients give consumers room to be more experimental when cooking at home or to relive foreign holiday experiences.

Bingham explains that the COVID-19 pandemic has limited the variety of experiences consumers can have, inspiring consumers to find creative ways to work around this.

Expanding into new categories
Due to consumer demand for the “hot ‘n’ spicy” flavor profile, multiple brands are touting unusual flavor combinations, primarily out-of-character, to their original offerings.

For example, the lemon-lime flavored Mountain Dew has released its Flamin’ Hot and Fashion Capsule collections earlier this year. They joined forces with PepsiCo brand Cheetos to infuse their iconic hot flavor into the soda.

“As a brand, Dew has a rich history of experimenting with new flavors. We certainly had them in mind when we developed the Flamin’ Hot beverage,” says Matt Nielsten, senior director for marketing.

“This is one of our most provocative beverages yet, and we’re excited for Dew Nation to taste the unique blend of spicy and classic, sweet citrus flavor of Mountain Dew.”

Mountain Dew has joined forces with PepsiCo’s Cheetos to infuse their hot flavor into the soda.

Other significant trends include reimagining traditional flavors. Meanwhile, region-specific heat trends are also taking hold.

Last month, Olam Food Ingredients unveiled its latest spice blends range – Blends of the Americas. The 17 ready-to-use dry blends offer food manufacturers, foodservice companies and retailers a simple, clean label solution for creating consistent and authentic flavors inspired by some of the continent’s popular cuisines – those of modern Mexico, the Caribbean and the US Southwest.

In May, US-based Wixon spotlighted the increased demand for comfort food with a Mexican twist. According to the company, Mexican flavors and dishes are “incredibly popular with US consumers,” and this geographical reach is expanding.

Source: Flamin’ hot takes hold: NPD rises with heat-specific flavors