Americans are divided about almost everything—except hot sauce

Sizzling sales.
Sizzling sales.
Image: AP Photo/Nick Ut
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Beyoncé sings about it, Hillary Clinton talks about it, and people are increasingly scooping it off US grocery-store shelves. Hot sauce is enjoying an uninterrupted five-year sales streak.

Just how impressive is the US hot sauce market? Since 2012, it has experienced at least 5% growth in sales every year, according to data provided by Euromonitor. That leaves other condiments—think mustard, mayo, and ketchup—in the dust.

That kind of sustained growth is made possible because of three major demographic trends, according to a report this week by Credit Suisse analyst Robert Moskow. The first is that millennials are cooking more, and when they do, they’re experimenting with heat-heavy foreign flavors. Consider the bevy of spicy options offered by meal kit services such as Blue Apron.

Then, there is the rising population of older consumers who have come to favor spicier foods, Moskow writes. The Boston Globe in 2007 posited that, as Boomers lose their sense of taste, they are turning to heat-centric foods to “overcome their dulled senses.” Whether that offers a full explanation for the trend among people in their Fifties and Sixties is unclear. One thing is for sure, sales of hot sauce at retail are going up.

Lastly, Moskow says that with each passing year, non-white ethnic consumers account for a greater percentage of the population. Since 1990, for instance, the foreign-born population in the US has increased by about 120% to more than 43 million people, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s about 15% of the total US population. That growth happens to coincide with the increasing popularity of hot sauce.

In other words, the fabric of America is changing, and as those changes unfold, so too do culinary tastes and preferences. And it’s good news for those few niche companies who make hot sauce and dominate market share in America. Frank’s RedHot, Sriracha, Tabasco (which just released its hottest sauce yet), and Cholula together share an impressive 50% of the market, according to Credit Suisse.