Turn up the heat with spicy flavours

May 30 2015

Spicy flavours are on the rise on fast-casual menus - and it looks like they'll continue to gain momentum.

According to recent data from Technomic's MenuMonitor online data resource, spicy flavours are up about three percent from the first quarter of 2014 to the first quarter of 2015. Sauces, especially Sriracha, are one of the most popular ways to add spiciness to a dish, but experts at Technomic reckon that as the flavour trend continues, customers will be looking for restaurants to spice up their dishes by using spices and peppers in new ways.

Sarah Janssen, assistant editor at Technomic says that new ethnic spices could be gaining popularity, adding that jalapenos, green chiles and other, lesser-known, peppers are also being added to dishes in unique ways.

"Spice blends can breathe new life into bland basics," she says. For example, a chicken dish could be enhanced with an unusual blend of spices and it could entice customers at a time when beef prices are on the rise.

Ms Janssen also says that opposing flavours can be complementary. "While many restaurants use sauces to flavour items like chicken with sweet and spicy or fruity and spicy flavours, operators can differentiate by using blends of spices added during the cooking process," she explains.

Research from Technomic shows that men and younger customers are the main consumers when it comes to spicy flavours. If you want to grab the attention nof these customers, the food industry expert recommends appealing to their more adventurous sides by calling out lesser-known peppers and specific spices. However, if you want to appeal to women, try balancing spice with sweet or savoury could to make the dishes more palatable.

If you're looking for ways to add some heat to your menu, here are some examples from fast-casual chains:

  • Chorizo Jack Sandwich - Served at Bruegger's Bagles, this dish combines egg, pepper, Jack cheese, chorizo sausage and jalapeno cream cheese on a guajillo (Mexican chili pepper) bagel.
  • Spicy Sonoma Caesar - Offered at Chop't Creative Salad Co, this salad starts with a bed of romaine and kale and is topped with FreeBird chipotle chicken, avocado, Parmesan-quinoa crisps, Fresno chili peppers and a creamy Caesar dressing.
  • Red Pepper Hummus - Zoes Kitchen offers this dip, which is infused with paprika, cayanne pepper, crushed red pepper and roasted red peppers, as well as lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper.