Spicy food trend chicken sandwich

C-Store Food Trends: Spicy Foods Are on the Rise, Nationally and Locally!

One flavor trend that we’re seeing continue to tick up in 2023 and beyond is the affinity for a variety of spicy foods and food products. There are a number of reasons that unique spice profiles are selling well – novelty and excitement for sure, but also a wider exposure to different types of chili peppers and related flavor profiles from around the world. It’s not just about “how hot” the foods are, like buffalo wing commercials of old, and also about creating unique, craveable flavors that incorporate particular spicy aspects.

C-Stores Deliver on Customers Spicy Cravings

C-stores are investing in spicy foods to meet customer demands across a variety of food products – from packaged snacks, to fresh and prepared meals, even beverages!

Emerging Convenience Store Spice Trends
Some certainly do like it hot! Intense flavor profiles, including a variety of chili pepper varieties sourced from around the world, are trending up in 2023, and are not showing any signs of slowing down yet.

Flavor trends in the United States have been gravitating towards “spicy” for a number of years, with the advent of a number of new, capsaicin-forward snack and meal options. A larger swath of consumers are picking up on this trend now though, and they are getting more selective about their spicy snacks as time goes on, developing particular preferences and affinities.

Snack Foods
New lines of snack foods have cropped up in recent years, most notably with a massive expansion to the “Flamin’ Hot” Cheetos line. Despite the fact that the original Flamin’ Hot Cheetos debuted nationally thirty-plus years ago, this product line is now seeing its moment. Sales are surging across the approximately dozen different product variations out there – including limited time releases.

There’s even a Flamin’ Hot Cheetos movie set for release on Hulu in 2023. The movie documents the amazing feel-good story of the Frito-Lay janitor turned VP of Multicultural Sales whose ascent began with his invention of the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto prototype! A success story made possible by c-store sales.

Spicy Meals
Beyond packaged snack products, there is also increased demand for spicy meals on the go. New variations on the fried chicken sandwich are proliferating across the nation, in both traditional quick service restaurants and c-stores. Spicy varieties are selling well, in competition with new premium products from QSRs.

Spicy foods from Southeast Asia, Central and South America are also trending up, as consumers seek out novel, delicious flavor combinations. A wider variety of prepared foods and grab-and-go meals featuring international spice profiles is becoming common.

Spicy Beverages!?
Yes, there are even spicy beverages on the rise! From Hot & Spicy V8, to Flamin’ Hot Mountain Dew – customers are quenching their thirst, and their cravings. New lines of natural beverages featuring strong flavor components like ginger are also seeing support due to their flavor and health benefits.

Where the Spicy Food Trend is Heading

While this trend continues, we are seeing it cross paths with another new trend – an increased desire for international flavors. This year, up to 74% of consumers expressed a desire to experience new foods and flavors from around the world. Specifically, southeast Asian flavors are trending up across the United States. Be prepared for consumers to continue their intake of new, spicy flavors, especially from novelty hot peppers sourced from different regions around the world. The desire for internationally inspired meals doesn’t show any sign of slowing.

We also expect consumers to lean into locally produced spicy foods, and functional foods that support their wellness, while exciting their taste buds. Learn more about the emerging trends that are driving the c-store food sector with our new guide!

2023-2024 Food Trends Guide: Now Available!

See our complete 2023-2024 Convenience Store Food Trends guide for more insights that can help you grow sales in your stores.

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