Autumn draws in, the nights get chillier, but Britain shows no sign of cooling down. Hot sauce is dominating the foodie scene – and it looks like every millennial is getting hooked on Capsaicinoids, the chemicals in chilli which give a ‘chilli-high’. Trend spotters used to talk about coffee beans and craft beers; now, they’re talking Bitcoin and chilli peppers.
According to Euromonitor International, sales of chilli sauces in the UK are going up by a phenomenal 7% a year, steaming ahead of all other condiments. If in doubt, I direct you to the multitude of videos of hot sauce challenges on YouTube as well as the famous US online TV show, Hot Ones, in which host Sean Evans subjects his guests (Cara Delevingne and Seth Rogan among them) to the most brutal hot sauce.
So, where has this hot sauce frenzy come from you ask?
Well, thanks to the millennial generation who are obsessed with trying out new flavours, hot sauce producers have been pushing the boundaries by creating innovative new combinations to satisfy their curiosity.
From hipster sauces created in mum’s kitchen to mainstream hot sauce, there has been an eruption of creativity similar to the rising craft beer and coffee scene. Recent examples include; Kulchstein creating an IPA sauce with Dalston’s 40 Foot brewery; Hop Burns & Black in south London selling vinyl, beer and hot sauce.
At the recent Wing Fest, in 2018, I spoke to the organiser and founder about his views on Phipps client, Frank’s RedHot sauce; “The popularity of hot sauce and its marriage with wings sits at the very centre of Wing Fest and is why the event has grown so quickly. Buffalo Sauce is now a way of life for many, and at the heart of every great Buffalo Sauce is a quality hot sauce like Frank’s RedHot.” At this year’s event, nearly 100,000 wings were eaten with 50% of these containing Buffalo sauce, which is by far nations favourite wing.
To that end, hot sauce has become the ‘millennial’ staple, with producers now creating products to be sold to supermarkets as well as restaurants. According to Duncan Parsonage, Fresh Direct’s head of food development in an article by The Caterer, “Things are hotting up in the condiments market as people experiment with more varieties of chillies combined with tastes from different world regions. It’s now cool to think hot, so you really need to know your smoky chipotle from your mellow poblano or super-hot Dorset Naga if you want to keep up with the trends.”
So, with this booming industry gaining a large cult following, I decided to determine how the major hot sauce players size up against each other. Here’s what happened during my ‘chilli -high’…
Nando’s, one of the pioneers in the UK hot sauce trend, these guys know how to make a good dipping sauce. Limey with a fruity kick, a nice balance of flavour and a thick sauce which is important, you don’t want it to entirely drip out of your burger. Oh, and the added chilli flakes weren’t a bad touch.
The verdict: 7/10
Holy kameloy! First you get that garlic punch, then a lengthy time for you to ponder on the depth of flavour. Lots of layers, much like an onion, and the thickness of the sauce allowed for a good mouth-coating.
The verdict: 7.5/10
Flavour intensity was subtle, but the blazing heat made up for this; definitely a cold buster. Fruity flavour with a punch of vinegar, but be warned it can pour rather quickly, so you could end up ruining your soup in no time.
The verdict: 6/10
Like a spicy Gazpacho. I had lots of time for the tomato, peppery and slightly acidic flavour, blending together to create a rich taste. The heat was a little overpowering and the flavour didn’t last for a long time which let the sauce down. Overall, a decent, inoffensive hot sauce – the kind you would bring home to the fam.
The verdict: 6/10
Ahh Tabasco my old childhood friend. Given its size, the large packaging is like trying to tear open a new iPhone box. Once inside, I shook a few droplets onto a cracker and was met with a watery consistency and acidic flavour. Not one to consume on its own, although it has its place, definitely a food enhancer.
The verdict: 5/10 (as a food enhancer)
Now we’re cooking. The king of hot sauces has arrived. The first mouthful delights me with the taste of aged cayenne peppers, celery and a gentle kick of garlic. The heat is pleasant without being too overpowering and the flavour carries on for a good few minutes. Balanced and consistent; this sauce goes with anything.
The verdict: 8.5/10