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14 Feb 2024

Category Deep Dive: Hot sauce

Category Deep Dive: Hot sauce

Hot sauce is one of the product categories that has undoubtedly seen an explosion in popularity in recent years, and this has very much been reflected at Speciality & Fine Food Fair with countless new hot sauces launching at the event each year from all around the world. 

Brands such as Fiji-based Down to Earth have had success in recent years at the Fair, participating through the International Trade Centre and securing distribution through UK online wholesaler Hot-Headz!. 

Speciality & Fine Food Fair caught up with Chief Hot-Head! Stuart McAllister to find out more about this 'hot' category in the world of artisan food. 

How popular is hot sauce in the UK compared to 5-10 years ago?

There has been an upward trend in the hot sauce market worldwide over the past decade and research firm Technavio forecast a compound annual growth rate of 7.49% per year world wide, meaning a projected growth of $1 billion between 2023 and 2028. We have seen a plethora of new small batch hot sauce makers in the UK and more big brands finding shelf space in supermarkets.

Do you think UK consumers are becoming more adventurous with spice and international flavours?

Definitely. Whilst Chinese and Indian food are well established in the UK, there's been upward trends in Mexican foods, Caribbean cooking over the last decade and more recently Thai and Korean. With the rise of celebrity chef programmes over the past decades, people are cooking at home a lot more.  The pandemic lock down also drove this trend out of necessity and consumers have become much more adventurous when it comes to heat and spice.

Are there any types or brands that are particularly popular with consumers?

The obvious one is Huy Fong Sriracha which Hot-Headz! sold through Sainsbury's and Waitrose for several years until it was banned by the EU due to the preservative used being no longer compliant. This made way for established shelf space to be taken by big brands like Tabasco, who's version of Sriracha replaced the iconic "Rooster" sauce.

At the Fair we find we have a lot of hot sauce brands from all over the world, what makes an international hot sauce brand stand out?

The aforementioned Huy Fong Sriracha is probably the best known, with endorsements from celebrity chefs worldwide.  From humble beginnings it is now sold worldwide and it's iconic plastic bottle with the Rooster logo and green cap is instantly recognisable and much copied.  Another newer brand is Truff from California. Their premium blend of Italian truffles and hot sauce in a signature bottle with bespoke truffle shaped cap has been a huge hit at the premium end of the market. Another good example would be the long established Cholula hot sauce from Mexico with it's wooden stopper effect cap.

How important are aspects like sustainability and the provenance of ingredients when you’re sourcing hot sauces?

At Hot-Headz! we always make our sauces where we can get the freshest crops of chilli peppers and other ingredients like fruits and vegetables.  Costa Rica is perfect for this as the climate lends itself to several crops per year.  We only ever ship via sea freight and never by air. Many UK producers rely on imported ingredients and growers often face late crops each year due to our climate and needing to grow under poly tunnels.

In the world of condiments more generally, what kind of trends are you seeing in what’s popular with your customers?

More recently we've seen a real interest in "Chilli Crisp Oil" made popular by the Lao Gan Ma brand.  A best seller in the UK is Germano's from the Philippines which wins awards and has build a large, fanatical customer base.  Also Korean is very much on trend.  Kimchi is now very popular and flavours like Gochujang (fermented red chilli paste) and Bulgogi are very well received by consumers.

Check out the full range of hot sauces and condiments stocked by Hot-Headz! at hot-headz.com. To keep up to date with all the latest industry news, interviews and analysis by subscribing to the Speciality & Fine Food Fair newsletter. 

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