The Hot Sauce Industry Is Hot

Even if you’re keeping to a Paleo diet, you’re not eating the same things your ancestors did.

No one is. That’s because what could have been available in a certain area and what was available to most people were two very different things. If you think about just how novel some crops were in different parts of the world, you’d shiver in your shoes – maybe even literally as you might choose to go without food for a while.

The point is that the world was a bland place until global trade and job specialization came into play. (And let’s face it; most of our ancestors weren’t among the elite that never had to worry about food insecurity.) What you can find on a restaurant menu now is a great deal more enthralling than you could have mustered a couple of centuries ago.

That’s the way things go, food preferences change, adapt, and grow. They’re hardly ever stagnant for long (though they don’t tend to progress as fast during wartime or after natural disasters). And, the growth of the hot sauce industry is, perhaps, one of the best examples of the current food revolution.

The HUGE Hot Sauce Industry

Since 2000, hot sauce sales in the United States alone have increased by 150 percent. That’s more than any other condiment. And that’s a huge number. It’s bigger than you can imagine really. Globally, we’re looking at something like one billion bottles of hot sauce. Let’s try to put that in perspective…

  • If you laid 1 billion bottles of Mad Dog top to bottom, you could cover the Earth’s circumference four (and a quarter) times.
  • If all 1 billion bottles were sold annually in the US, everyone from your newborn to your great aunt Edna would need to buy three of those bottles. However, it wouldn’t be enough for everyone in China… or India. Spread globally, only one in seven people would have a bottle of hot sauce.
  • One billion is more than the 600 million Beatles albums sold worldwide (though less than the 1.3 billion singles sold in the US alone).
  • One billion seconds is about 32 years. If one bottle of hot sauce sold every minute, it would take 1920 years to sell a billion bottles… clearly that’s not the case.

Besides telling you just how big the world really is, you should know that hot sauce is a big deal. (Consider too that around 3.5 billion people live on less than $2.50 per day, and there are a fair amount of children who simply can’t tolerate spicy food.)

Can Hot Sauces Get Any Hotter?

Short answer: yes! Hot sauces can be nearly as hot as pure capsaicin. That’s 16 million Scovilles. Though, let’s be honest, it’s damn hard to produce a hot sauce over a million or two Scovilles; at that point, it’s less about the sauce and more about the heat, and you can get extracts of pure heat… so there’s not much need for sauces, per se.

The bigger problem is, of course, that we don’t know what that means in terms of temperature. Does one million Scovilles feel like 1000 degrees Fahrenheit? Not only don’t we know, but they're also isn’t any real way of finding out. That means it’s quite impossible to test whether the hot sauce is hotter than hell. Which, incidentally, is somewhere between 9000 and 11,000 degrees Fahrenheit.

Still, hot sauce has saved us from the strict Paleo diets our ancestors had… and that trend shows no sign of slowing anytime soon.


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