International Heat, Local Flavors

It’s not as if Americans hold the rights to the heat-inducing condiments market.

We don’t.

Even though we’ve got some serious hot sauce talent here, and aisles and aisles of sauces in every grocery store to prove it… we still can’t take all the credit.

Sriracha, for example, isn’t an American creation. We need to look east for the roots of this garlicky goodness in a bottle. Harissa comes from North Africa (they claim it as their own in Tunisia where they spread this paste on damn near everything they put in their mouths).

And, we really only need to look to the south to see the influence of chilies on the foods we’ve grown to love.

These international flavors hardly seem so foreign these days. The heat levels may change and adapt according to American tolerance. But, what’s global is local just as American foods seem to branch out into the world like McDonald’s chains.

Blame It on the Millennials

Okay, there’s no reason to blame anyone; the explosion of flavors in the American market is a good thing. But, according to Mintel, a research company, it’s the millennials that are driving the market for increasingly hot world flavors.

Those born between 1980 and 2000 have become accustomed to the foods that would have scared the pants off their parents.

That’s why the number of cases of hot sauces shipped to fast-food restaurants has grown over the past few years. And, not just by a little bit either; you can count double-digit percentages of growth.

It’s not going to stop either.

At least not if millennials have anything to do with it. Just consider White Castle’s latest release. These Ghost Pepper Sliders are a serious step up from the jalapeño in terms of heat. It’s not that they’ll bite you back (until morning), but they’re a solid, straightforward fast food option. Indeed, they may prove to be much more popular than the Ghost Pepper Fries at Wendy’s.

It’s More than Fast Food Though

There’s something to be said for the fact

that the general public knows what ghost peppers are – even if many of them wouldn’t (and probably couldn’t) get close to one.

The same goes for sriracha, harissa, and peri-peri. These aren’t American flavors. At least, they didn’t develop here. Give it a couple of decades, and you probably wouldn’t be able to discern between a North African dish and an American one; they’re all merging together.

You will still, however, be able to tell the difference between a White Castle slider and a gourmet offering. At least, we sure hope so. Otherwise, we may really have a reason to blame millennials.

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