Meet the heat with sweet
While Bob’s Processing Inc., South Haven, Michigan, is perhaps best known for its smoky pulled pork, hand-crafted culinary-inspired sausages and thick bacon, the family butcher often can’t keep his barbecue sauce down. soft in Stock. The homemade condiment is sold chilled in 18 oz tubs and features the sweetness of brown sugar, molasses, and pineapple and orange juices along with the heat of chipotle and habanero peppers.
Such layering of flavors is all the rage in all foods and beverages. When it comes to meat and poultry, the sweet tang complements the umami and salty tastes in a balanced way. It also presents the consumer with a familiar way to explore taste sensations.
Explore and experiment
According to Mintel, Chicago, research shows consumers are more open to trying new flavors when combined with a food they usually eat. It is often a form of spice, which is a subjective term that encompasses the heat of chili peppers (from the capsaicin content), as well as the pungent organic compounds associated with ingredients such as cinnamon, l garlic, ginger, horseradish, mustard and even onion.
Today’s consumer’s insatiable appetite for all things spicy has put innovators on the hot seat to create products that satisfy cravings. It’s a balancing act, and it’s part of what’s fueling the current trend for gentle heat. Such combinations are described by Wixon Inc., St. Francis, Wisconsin, “as top-tier favorite flavors.” It’s about being grounded in a familiar flavor and then giving it an unexpected kick.
“The new flavor is not only tasty, but it’s not as intimidating to try,” said Ryan Kukuruzovic, business manager at Wixon. “The balance between the familiar and the unexpected can instill excitement and ensure a greater likelihood of consumer acceptance. One of my favorites is the black garlic tamarind citrus. The sweet and salty notes have an earthy fruitiness. We use it in snacks, sauces and to flavor proteins.
Lime is one of the most common citrus flavors to associate with heat. Other options include grapefruit, lemon, and orange. On the tropical side, mango, pineapple and tamarind pair well with the heat too.
Take risks in restaurants
Consumers often feel less intimidated by the idea of trying new flavors when they are away from home. It’s less of a commitment when ordering one, and if it’s not satisfactory, it’s easy to order something else. A study by Datassential, Chicago, showed that 62% of diners like or like flavor or spicy foods. In response, spicy chicken sandwiches now appear on more than half (55%) of quick-service menus, according to Datassential Menu Trends 2021.
Using Frank’s RedHot Stingin’ Honey Garlic Sauce, Chester’s Chicken, Birmingham, Ala., a fresh fried chicken quick-service restaurant concept with 1,200 locations, added a sweet heat to its menu this summer with Chester’s Honey Stung Chicken under form of sandwiches and appetizers. Chester’s specially marinated, breaded and fried fresh chicken is “sauced and tossed” in the sauce.
The new limited-time offer follows Chester’s spring 2022 rollout of Hot N Spicy Poultry Rub. The proprietary seasoning is paired with Chester’s Hot N Spicy breadcrumbs to boost the heat and flavor of its bone-in chicken fillets and extra-large white meat.
For ultra adventurous dining, Arby’s offered the Diablo Dare Challenge earlier this year. The Diablo Dare is a sandwich so spicy, it includes a free vanilla shake to refresh your mouth between bites. It combined the heat of five spice sources: Ghost Pepper Jack cheese, tangy seasoning, fire-roasted jalapenos and diablo barbecue sauce served on a toasted red chipotle bun with a choice of 1 p.m. smoked brisket or crispy chicken.
Diablo, which translates to devil, is Arby’s barbecue sauce that contains the heat of cayenne, chili, chipotle, and habanero peppers. The hot seasoning is made with red cayenne peppers, habanero powder and capsicum.
What is the bell pepper?
All peppers belong to the genus Capsicum, with each pepper possessing unique tastes and aromas due to the varying combination of the hundreds of different chemical compounds found in it. It is the odorless and tasteless crystalline chemical compound known as capsaicin that stimulates nerve endings in the mouth and skin, triggering the production of a neurotransmitter that signals to the brain that the body is in pain, particularly because it is on fire. Not only is it inherent in chili peppers, but it is also available as an isolated and compound ingredient to make foods fiery.
The concentration of capsaicin, called the pungency of chili peppers, is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) using high performance liquid chromatography. Pure capsaicin exceeds the Scoville scale at 16 million SHU. To perfect the combination of flavor and heat from the peppers, it is a matter of managing the levels of capsaicin to allow the flavor of the spices and peppers to be tasted. And, with some peppers, the heat can come on quickly, while with others it can be slow. Some hit and disappear. Others linger.
The Carolina Reaper is one of the hottest peppers in the world, averaging $1.64 million, with some peaking at nearly $2.2 million. While pepper is said to have a fruity aroma and flavor, most taste buds never get a chance to taste it. Bell peppers, on the other hand, which are also part of the genus Capsicum, lack capsaicin. They score zero on the Scoville scale. This is why the flavor of pepper is fully tasted and is noticeably different between different color cultivars.
This milkshake that Arby’s distributed with the Diablo Dare helps solubilize capsaicin, which helps bring out more flavor. Capsaicin is fat soluble.
Other forms of heat
Another common form of heat comes from allyl isothiocyanate, a colorless compound found in mustard, horseradish and wasabi. It works differently from capsaicin. Rather than exciting the nerves in the mouth, it produces vapors that stimulate the nasal passages. Because allyl isothiocyanate is not oil-based, the burn can easily be cleaned by consuming more food or fluids.
Kimchi and gochujang are two Asian flavors that can add a kick to meat and poultry. Kimchi is a fermented cabbage side dish that offers a salty, spicy, fermented flavor with hints of garlic and onion, while gochujang is a thick pepper paste that has a hint of heat and a hint of sweetness from the rice syrup.
“Kimchi and gochujang can be used in many ways,” said Hernan Angarita, Culinary Applications and Innovation Manager, Kerry, Beloit, Wis. “Kimchi goes well with American barbecue, for example.”
What’s for dinner?
What consumers get when they dine out, they eventually want to be able to enjoy in the comfort of their own home. That craving for heat is something John Soules Foods, Tyler, Texas, and FoodStory Brands, Phoenix, hope to satisfy with the launch of Hot Ones Boneless Chicken Bites. It is a co-branding venture with “First We Feast”, an online food culture magazine and YouTube channel. The line rolled out in August in Walmart’s freezer aisle and will soon debut at other retailers. Bites come in resealable 18.6 oz bags with a Hot Ones sauce packet. The five varieties are Original (classic Hot Ones sauce), Spicy Garlic (classic garlic sauce), Barbacoa (Los Calientes barbacoa sauce), Smoky Sweet (Los Calientes verde sauce), and Smoky Habanero (Los Calientes rojo sauce).
Farmer Focus, based in Harrisonburg, Va., has added Zesty Peruvian to its line of value-added pre-seasoned organic chicken breasts. The spice mix includes lime, paprika, cumin, tomato and coriander. There is also a new Rich Red Curry offering. This chicken features a sweet and savory blend of red pepper, ginger, and garam masala.
Some consumers prefer to manage the spiciness level of their food. This is especially true for consumers who need to manage their sodium intake. In response to this preference, the premium spicy seasoning category is growing.
PK Kinder Co. Inc., Walnut Creek, Calif., for example, has developed a line of salt-free spicy seasonings designed to deliver great flavor without the sodium. The company offers a lemon pepper offering, a combination that has long been used to entice taste buds to taste amplified flavor without the sodium. The new blackened option gets a kick of cayenne and a sour burst of lemon. The taco mix features smoky spices and chili and finishes with a hint of lime. There is also a barbecue mix with paprika, garlic and spices with the sweetness of brown sugar.
“Zero salt doesn’t necessarily mean zero taste,” said Cari Kwong, vice president of marketing. “We’ve built layers of flavor into our salt-free seasonings, giving home cooks on low-sodium diets flavorful blends they can use to make delicious meals for themselves and their families.”
Last summer, Kraft Heinz Co., Chicago and Philadelphia, introduced a one-of-a-kind condiment to elevate the burger-eating experience. The new Heinz Dip & Crunch is a two-compartment dome-style package, with one part containing sauce and the other crunchy potato crunches. There are two varieties of sauce, one giving more spiciness than the other. The original is made with tomato puree, molasses, sun-dried tomatoes, garlic powder, tamarind concentrate, onion powder, and spices. The spicy option adds a dimension of heat.
On the snack side, San Francisco, Calif.-based 4505 Meats has teamed up with Tajín, a popular Mexican seasoning brand, to add Chili Limón Chicharrones to its line of pork rind snacks. Other spicy flavors in the line include classic chili, jalapeno cheddar, and “en fuego,” which means “on fire.” And Old Wisconsin, Sheboygan, Wis., added hot and spicy sausage sticks to its meat snack offerings. They are warmed with a mixture of jalapeno, serrano and red chili peppers.
The meat substitutes space is also embracing the trend. Planet Partnership LLC, a joint venture between Beyond Meat Inc., El Segundo, CA, and PepsiCo Inc., Purchase, NY, now offers Beyond Meat Jerky. One of the flavors is Hot & Spicy. And Tyson Foods-based Springdale Ark. has a spicy option in its Raised & Rooted Herbal Nuggets.