First there was chipotle. No, not the company, but a jalapeño that’s been smoked and dried. Dusted onto potato chips and sneaked into sauce, chipotle and its subtle, smoky heat nudged its way into consumer packaged foods more than a decade ago. I credit this one small slice of spice for softening the American palate for the chile wave to come. From Thai chile to harissa, gochujang to habanero, we are eating it up and the spicier and more spiced the better. Predictions of Sriracha’s imminent demise a few years ago proved to be totally overblown. In today’s packaged beverage market, companies are launching product lines to capture the customer that seeks out spicy and spiced, and are including at least one heavily spiced or spicy product in their assortment.
Indian Spices are Ancient but New Again
As America becomes more diverse, ethnic flavors are becoming commonplace, moving into packaged foods and beverages. Chaasi developed a line of ‘Indian-style spiced yoghurt drinks’ that riff on lassi, a spiced yogurt drink from the Indian subcontinent. Blueberry Cinnamon Rose has a mild flavor but the added sea salt, as in a traditional salted lassi, gives the dish a pleasant savoriness. Cashew Spiced Chai blends ginger and black pepper for a hit of warm heat.
Building on the health benefits of turmeric, a rhizome ground into powder and used as a seasoning across India, Turveda developed a line of “curcumin rich beverages” (curcumin is the beneficial substance in turmeric). Built around the power of Ayurveda, an ancient Indian system of natural healing, Turveda incorporates traditional Ayurvedic spices into its turmeric sparkling beverages. Seasoned with ginger and black pepper, two other ingredients that add warm spiciness to food, these drinks offer a window into the changing perception of spice in the beverage category.
The Juice Movement Helped Normalize Spicy Heat
Packaged in a black-wrapped bottle that looks fresh in the refrigerated section of the store (more on that soon), Modern Alkeme’s line of tea-based tonics are adapted from an ancient Japanese recipe. These drinks were designed to be used as part of a cleanse to eliminate toxins but are making their way into daily use or as “maintenance,” post-cleanse. Sure, the base is mildly sweet coconut water but the added ghost chile pepper gives the drink an “unforgettable hint of spicy.”
Sap on Tap
Ginger and lime were once considered seasonings only for Asian meals. Turns out the powerful one-two of sour lime and spicy ginger make for what’s next in water. Sap on Tap built Maple Water with Ginger and Lime flavor around its classic maple water base which softens the pungency of the other two ingredients. But the Maple Water with Ginger and Lime is punchy without being too aggressive. It makes a nice intro to the world of spiced and spicy beverages.
Spiced foods, those containing aromatic or pungent seasonings, and spicy foods, those seasoned with chilies, are on a roll. There are health benefits to eating these foods which may be driving their appeal but the greater exposure of most Americans to a wide range of cultures and flavors is also helping build interest in these foods and beverages. I expect to see an even greater range of well-seasoned and spiced beverages and packaged foods in the future.