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Spicy, seasonal flavors driving summer food trends

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Spicy, seasonal flavors driving summer food trends



CHICAGO — Spicy foods and seasonal flavors like blueberry and pulled pork are some of the summer’s biggest trends, according to market research firm Datassential.

The company found demand for spicy foods has grown particularly in the foodservice segment, where 71% of menus and 11% of drink menus feature the word “spicy.” Mike Kostyo, associate director and trendologist at Datassential, pointed to the 270 spicy limited-time offerings released by major foodservice chains as further evidence of the increasing demand.

“If you have this idea that (spicy flavors) are super polarizing, that’s actually not necessarily the case,” Mr. Kostyo said in a July 6 webinar. “There’s a good number of consumers who agree that the things we’re adding to major chain menus are things they want to purchase.”

Spicy offerings have seen a similar uptick in the retail category. Examples include the recent launches of Nashville hot pretzel pieces from Snyder’s of Hanover, SpaghettiOs Spicy Original with Frank’s RedHot from Campbell Soup Co. and Heinz Hot Varieties, a new line of spicy condiments from the Kraft Heinz Co.

Hot sauce consumption also has grown more than any other condiment over the last year, with nearly a quarter of consumers saying they increased their intake. Salsa marked the second largest condiment growth, followed by mayonnaise and ketchup. Spicier condiments are especially popular among younger consumers, with 47% of Gen Z and 45% of millennials preferring either moderately spicy toppings or condiments with as much heat as possible.

“Spice is almost like a lifestyle, there’s these trappings of ‘I’m somebody that loves heat,’” Mr. Kostyo said. “For a lot of people that love spice, it’s a true love for spice. It really is part of who they are and how they eat.”

Within the world of spice, flavors like salsa macha and tajin have grown the most over the last four years across all categories, jumping 383% and 319%, respectively. Nashville hot, spicy margarita and mango habanero flavors also saw triple-digit increases during the same period. Popular pepper ingredient additions include pickled Fresno, pickled jalapeños, ghost peppers, habanero peppers and Calabrian chili peppers.

Seasonal summer flavors

Grilled pineapple is the most seasonal summer flavor, according to Datassential’s analysis of new product launches, limited-time offerings and returning items across several segments. Watermelon, white peach, yuzu, peach and pineapple also ranked among the most summer-exclusive flavors.

“Pineapple is a little bit seasonal, but when you add that outdoor feel of grilled pineapple … it can hint to people that this is definitely a summer seasonal option,” said Claire Conaghan, associate director of Datassential’s Publications unit.

When comparing summer additions across the restaurant, c-store, grocery deli and meal kit segments, the company found blueberry and pulled pork were the most common summer flavors and ingredients. In the restaurant category, white barbecue stands out as the most seasonal summer flavor, with menu inclusions of the condiment growing 54% over the last four years. Other summer restaurant offerings range from lobster salad and corn on the cob to tofu and apple butter.

For the C-store, grocery deli and meal kit categories, the top summer flavors were Italian sub, hatch chile and nectarine, respectively. 

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