Some Like It Hot: Spicy Snacks and Hot Sauce on the Rise

Recent polls suggest Americans are adding a little spice to their lives.

An Instacart survey of over 2,000 U.S. adults found that 74% of Americans eat hot sauce with their food, and nearly half (45%) said they typically dash hot sauce on their food once a week or more.

And consumers are putting their money where their mouth is. Supermarket dollar sales for the hot/Cajun sauce category were up 5.2% to $789.9 million in the 52 weeks ending Jan. 23, according to Food Institute analysis of IRI data. Instacart also found that, between December 2020 and November 2021, customers purchased 444,854 gallons of hot sauce.

“The American restaurant customer’s palate is changing,” Pete Foster, owner of San Pedro Café in Hudson, Wisconsin, told The Food Institute. “More guests enjoy spicy and heavily seasoned dishes.”

Here’s a closer look into which spicy products are gaining popularity with consumers.


Most hot sauce enthusiasts are willing to go to bat for their favorites, with 67% saying they are passionate about their favorite brand.

Interestingly, the top selections vary by state. Huy Fong, the makers of the famous “rooster sauce” Sriracha, is the top hot sauce in 31 states including nearly the entire western region, followed by Frank’s RedHot in 14 states located primarily in the Midwest and Northeast. Coming as no surprise, these were listed as the number 1 and 2 hot sauces sold via Instacart by weight.

Other brands rounding out the top five include: Cholula, Burman’s, and Tapatio.

Though consumers are very loyal to their brands, new trends have also been observed.  “Over the past year, we’ve noticed that hot sauce enthusiasts are reaching for newer brands like Maya Kaimal and TRUFF, which top the list for Instacart’s fastest-growing hot sauce brands,” said Laurentia Romaniuk, Instacart’s trends expert, in the press release.

“These newer brands are likely gaining traction among hot sauce enthusiasts because they offer up unique flavor profiles that also pack a punch, incorporating everything from truffles to traditional Indian spices,” she added.


It’s not just hot sauce that’s resonating with spice-seeking consumers. Nowadays, it seems like every snack has a “flamin’ hot” variety.

For example, Ruffles just launched a new collaboration with basketball legend LeBron James called Ruffles Flamin’ Hot Cheddar & Sour Cream Flavored Potato Chips. The chips join Ruffles Flamin’ Hot and Ruffles Flamin’ Hot BBQ.

In a statement, Frito-Lay told Eater that “spicy salty snacks have spiked in popularity in recent years with the category growing 12 percent in the last four years.”

The company added that, according to a recent survey, over half (55 percent) of U.S. consumers have tried Cheetos Flamin’ Hot and 46 percent of Gen Z say they love them.