Hot and Spicy Flavor Combinations

Mild. Medium. Hot. Gone are the days when a simple heat level made a product interesting to consumers. People demand more complex tastes with more subtle hot and spicy flavor differences. From the rise of sriracha as a condiment, to finding the spiciest pepper to replace the ghost pepper, consumers now look for and expect more specificity within their menus and products than a simple “mild, medium or hot” heat level.

This creates opportunities for innovators to expand product lines with “specialty” items highlighting specific flavors and ingredients. For example, McDonald’s® recently brought back a limited offering of its Szechuan dipping sauce for one day. The unexpected high popularity and interest raises the question of whether they will bring it back permanently.1 Read more about that spicy situation here.

Sweet Heat Continues as “Hot” Flavor

sweet heat
Consumers are interested in new spice experiences. In a recent Kalsec® survey, two-thirds of U.S. consumers continued to show interest in a spicy and sweet flavor combination along with one-half being interested in a sweet and tangy experience. Spicy and citrus came in third in regards to interest. Consumers continue to look for more complexity in their hot and spicy foods.

What is Sweet Heat?

Wondering what sweet heat actually means? While it seems like a contradiction, the sweet and spicy traits pair well together for a unique flavor combination. Examples of sweet heat include: sriracha and caramel, chocolate and cayenne, ghost pepper and barbecue, and honey and chilies.
To read more about hot and spicy food trends, check out our Hot and Spicy Consumer Trends Report or read Food Business News’ article, Seeking the Next Sriracha.2

1. Kentish, B. (2017, October 17). Woman trades rare packet of McDonald’s ‘Rick and Morty’ Szechuan sauce for a car. Retrieved October 19, 2017, from

2. Berry, D., & Nunes, K. (2017, October 18). Seeking the next sriracha. Retrieved October 18, 2017, from

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