Diners like it hot. At least that’s the conclusion from data collected from major research firms that track consumer tastes. According to a recent article published in the Nation’s Restaurant News, the majority of Americans, many of them Millenials,now enjoy spicy foods.
Two major marketing research firms, the NPD Group and Technomic Inc., recently reported data that indicates an increased shift in consumers’ preference for spicy foods. According to NRN, a Flavor Consumer Trend Report from Technomic Inc. in 2013 showed that 54 percent of consumers indicated a strong preference for spicy foods, compared to 48 percent in 2011 and 46 percent in 2009.
According to the NRN article and recent Technomic data, consumers ages 25 to 34 show the strongest preference for spicy food, especially for spicy sauces and condiments like Sriracha. In fact, NPD recently released data that shows that Sriracha is in 9 percent of U.S. households and in 16 percent of households with a head of household under the age of 35. And, it may not be surprising for those that live in the South that NPD National Eating Trends research reveals that Southerners eat more hot sauce than anyone else in the nation.
For many restaurants and owners, adding spicy items to their menu is driven by the motivation to appeal to a younger consumer base, including Millenials whose “adventurous” taste buds have affected the change. From a recent TIME article explaining the spicy trend:
By adding spicier options, restaurants can draw in more adventurous—and younger—customers, and they don’t seem nearly as concerned about alienating their core clientele as they used to be.
Nationally, restaurants are responding to the upward shift in consumers’ affinity for spicy foods. Fast-food restaurants like Wendy’s and Hardee’s are rolling out new spicy items like the Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Burger, Ghost Pepper Fries and the El Diablo Thickburger to appease consumers’ changing tastes.
Locally in Raleigh, restaurants continue to incorporate spicy condiments like Sriracha into their menu items, adding the sauce in everything from pizzas to gourmet burgers and potato chips.
Even celebrity chefs like David Chang are jumping onto to the spicy bandwagon. Chang’s restaurant group, Momofuku, recently announced that they will bottle and sell their own spicy Korean chili sauce called Ssäm Sauce. Chang also recently revealed during SXSW that he plans on opening a spicy fried chicken restaurant in New York City called Fuku, a concept that he would like to expand nationally much like burger chain Shake Shack.