Adding guacamole to a taco

Balancing Heat & Spice Levels to Create Exciting New Products

I recently had the opportunity to sit down and chat with two of our UK chefs to get their unique perspectives on hot & spicy food and beverages. While their backgrounds are diverse— from Rosette Award-winning fine dining to public schools—they are united in their passion for helping customers find new and innovative ways to broaden their product portfolios.

When asked what most excites them, it’s when they can push customers to heights they didn’t know possible.

“We come in and you can tell they [customers] think we’re not going to show them something new, then you do, and you can see it in their eyes,” noted Andrew Bingham, a Kalsec chef located in Suffolk.

One of the areas where that happens, time and again, is in hot and spicy flavours.

According to Kalsec Chef Lindsey Clements, who currently lives in Sheffield, one of the most exciting things is hot and spicy flavours are extending beyond traditional targets.

“It can fit into any genre,” said Clements. “Of course, there’s soda, gin, and vodka, but I’ve also seen it in bakery, like donuts.”

But given diverse flavour preferences, how do Bingham and Clements work to help customers match the right heat and flavour solutions to their audiences?

Two people sampling food

“We typically go in with different personas, and offer a solution for each of them,” said Bingham.

Different consumers have varying comfort levels with adopting new trends. Food producers and brands often vary the way they position new products, flavours and dishes depending on their target audience. Based on consumer demographics and market trends, personas allow a ‘universal language’ of what flavours will appeal, excite and push the boundaries for consumers.

These include a classic persona, where the flavour and spice level is more approachable, then demonstrate a range towards a more adventurous persona.

While some will stick with classics, Bingham says he always likes to inspire customers with new hot & spicy flavour experiences that push them out of their comfort zone.

“Sometimes we are able to share something so unexpected they decide to test it as a limited release flavour…if that release is successful, it can become permanent.”

This is especially important in Europe, where the variety of cuisines and cultures mean the heat experience consumers are looking for can vary greatly. The persona exploration helps clarify where current customers are most comfortable, and where Kalsec can take them to provide something new.

Regardless of the solution, Clements and Bingham agree the key to success with heat is achieving balance—taking pungent or hot heat notes and finding the right balance of sweet and savoury to achieve culinary complexity.

This can be seen in the balance found in the chef’s personal favourite hot and spicy dishes: Thai and Mexican for Clements and West African dishes, like One Pot Hot Pots and Okra Stew for Bingham. Both feature simple ingredients for optimal balance of flavour and heat.

The future is limitless when it comes to hot and spicy foods. As Clements said, it’s really pushing the expected boundaries. Bingham thinks it’s possible new flavours could emerge, not just by exploring cookery techniques, but even in the exploration of hybrid chilies.

No matter where you take hot and spicy applications, Kalsec chefs are ready to challenge and surprise you with the possibilities.