I spent a lot of time in Mexico, growing up, where there is one of the largest amount of variety of spicy peppers in the world. Mexicans do not shy away from spice and it’s only natural that they would experiment to find which foods taste better when they are spicy. The list of spicy foods available south of the border ranges from breakfast scrambles to spicy alcoholic beverages but one of the most popular among both kids and adults: spicy candy. It’s difficult to find a piece of candy there that won’t leave you with a gaping mouth and runny nose and at the flavors used in Mexican candy (tamarind is in everything!) are so different to traditional American candy that I never saw it catching on here.
Yet, the candy products being released this year suggest that there is a market for these spicy confections. When you think of spicy American candy, you think Hot Tamales (wonder where that name came from) or Big Red Gum (not really candy…) but The Hershey Company released Jolly Rancher Hotties last summer, which were followed by Sour Patch Kids Fire, Starburst Sweet Heat and Skittles Sweet Heat. Clearly, these candy goliaths recognize the demand for spicy, hot candy and are responding accordingly.
Of course, the most important aspect of these candies is that they remain sweet and that the newly introduced heat doesn’t overwhelm the consumer. In that sense, the spiciness becomes a note in the flavor of the candy rather than a gimmick that leaves the consumer incapacitated.
Time is necessary to see if spicy candy will be a runaway hit in America but other spicy snack foods have been number one sellers here for a long time. The main example that comes to mind is the Hot Cheeto, which was invented by a Mexican immigrant who surely had plenty of experience with spicy snacks.
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