Sweet Heat on Fire as 2022 Trend

Hot Honey

Mike’s Hot Honey has been a beloved condiment for years, used in everything from fried chicken sandwiches to pizza. Its success has spurred countless new hot honey introductions and served as a catalyst for the explosive growth of the sweet heat flavor profile.

Last year QSR Magazine reported that hot honey, in particular, grew on American menus a whopping 187 percent between 2016 and 2020. (Mike’s Hot Honey came onto the scene circa 2015.) And, there is no slowdown in sight, as even big brands such as Heinz are getting in the game. The company’s Heinz 57 Collection now offers an Infused Honey with Hot Chili.

Kevin Villanueva, research and development chef with The Culinary Edge, told QSR that the hot honey trend makes sense because “there’s truly no application I’d rule it out for.”

“The first factor is the complex flavor,” he said. “And, the ingredient label of Mike’s Hot Honey is super clean. It’s chilies, and it’s honey. One of the biggest trends moving forward is the clean label, and this fits right into that.”

Further, there’s something about sweet heat that has a cool factor. It began with a cult following and has grown into a mainstream phenomenon. Whole Foods Market’s Trends Council named honey combined with chilis as not only one of the condiment blend trends of the summer, but a driving change in the condiments category, along with “elevated” ketchup and mustard.

“We’re seeing tangy fermented ingredients adding flair to vinaigrettes, hot sauces, honeys and mayos,” the retailer wrote in Food Navigator. “With flavor boosts like miso, kimchi and fermented garlic, these products exponentially expand the flavor possibilities of every summer soirée.”

Scorching Snacks

Hot honey condiments are not the only sizzling category, as the flavor profile is finding its way into the snack aisle and frozen entree case. A Kalsec survey found that 80% of U.S. consumers aged 18 and older now enjoy hot and spicy foods, and over half of those consume spicy foods at least once a week. Snacks were the most common on the list. Drivers included a desire for complexity in their heat experience, confirming that consumers not only want to taste food, they also want to have a moment to remember. These sweetened-with-honey products aim to keep the fire burning.

Infused Honey with Hot Chili, Heinz 57 Collection
This summer launch was so huge that Eater congratulated hot honey on “completing the journey from indie condiment to market saturation.” Infused Honey with Hot Chili is a game changer, using honey as the base, infused with cayenne purée and a variety of unique chili pepper extract. Give this 11.25-ounce bottle a squeeze on everything from pizza to vegetables to chicken.

Photo Credit: Heinz
Photo Credit: Braswell's

Sweet & Hot BBQ Sauce Honey Habanero, Braswell’s
Making its Summer Fancy Food Show debut, this sauce is sure to delight consumers looking for a special level of heat that isn’t too sweet nor too hot. Honey is blended with chili pepper, habanero and barbecue sauce for 13.5 ounces of perfect flavor.

Hot BBQ Honey Roasted Peanuts, Rufus Teague
Famed barbecue sauce manufacturer Rufus Teague expanded its product offering with a hot new line of snack products. Hot BBQ Honey Roasted Peanuts are hot, but not so much that the chili pepper, paprika and hot barbecue nut seasoning take over the sweetness of the honey. Served in either single 9-ounce packages, a three-pack or a six-pack.

Photo Credit: Rufus Teague
Photo Credit: Crunchy Cravings

Honey Pineapple Habanero Sesame Sticks, Crunchy Cravings
These intensely-flavored Honey Roasted Pineapple Habanero Sesame Sticks are an explosion of sweet and heat. The flavor profile showcases the sweet taste of honey up front, and then roasted pineapple and spiced habanero provide a kick at the end.

Honey Sriracha Chicken Bites, Golden Nest
This snack combines honey, heat and a better-for-you quality in individually wrapped, bite-sized servings. Trendy sriracha is combined with honey as a delicious glaze that locks in natural juices and maximizes the barbecue flavor in every bite.

Photo Credit: Golden Nest
Photo Credit: Think Jerky

Free-Range Turkey Jerky Sriracha Honey, Think Jerky
Think Jerky’s packaging complete with peppers and the iconographic honey dipper lets consumers know exactly what they’re getting: a sweet and spice blend on free-range turkey jerky. Other ingredients of note include gluten-free tamari, onion powder and cayenne pepper.

Ready to beat the heat with a trendy made-with-honey condiment, snack or jerky? We’re here to answer your questions about formulating with honey. Email [email protected] for more information.