Culinary Trends - Unexpected Spice presented by Conagra Foodservice - January 2017


With so many types of chili peppers growing in popularity, it's easy to assume that "hotter is better" when flavoring up menu items. But for an unexpected twist, spicy notes can be combined with sweet and tangy ingredients, incorporated in a way that appeals to a broader audience. From warming spices—such as turmeric, anise and allspice—to the heat of Hatch chilies, Scotch bonnets and habaneros, these flavors enliven dishes across dayparts.

Chef Tips

Spice blends, chili peppers and other seasonings are complex and exciting from a flavor perspective, making the menu possibilities truly endless. Look to global cuisine for inspiration, such as Mexican hot chocolate with cayenne and cinnamon or Indian curries with ginger and cumin. Here are some other ideas to get you started:

  • Muddle jalapeño into fruity beverages
  • Spice up coffee and cocoa drinks with chai, cinnamon or nutmeg
  • Incorporate garam masala into marinades and sauces for proteins
Don't limit the use of spice to certain menuparts—complex yet complementary flavors will enhance breakfast offerings, snacks, entrées and desserts alike!
By the number

The impressive growth of bold, spicy ingredients on menus shows that patrons are embracing a more adventurous side to flavor. Here are some of the chilies and spice blends making an impact.

  • 66% ancho pepper
  • 515% sriracha
  • 2,347% ghost pepper
  • 41% garam masala

* Datassential MenuTrends, U.S. menu penetration growth 2012-2016

Recipe Versatility of RO*TEL®

Think beyond queso! RO*TEL® Diced Tomatoes & Green Chilies can be used to add an unexpected element of spice to on-trend side dishes or breakfast entrées, too. Watch our Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Fries demo:

Fully Loaded Sweet Potato Fries

Learn to make a Southwest Egg Sandwich:

Southwest Egg Sandwich

Swiss Miss®:
One Ingredient, Three Ways!

That's right…Swiss Miss® Hot Cocoa Mix is more than just a beverage. It's an ingredient that can be used in sweet and savory menu items alike! We'll show you how to incorporate this classic into Chicken Mole Tacos, Spicy Custard Pancakes and Iced Hot Chocolate Chai. Click to watch the video:

Iced Hot Chocolate Chai

Quick Dish

Mouth-watering menu descriptions entice patrons to try new dishes when dining out. Signature items featuring combinations of sweet-and-spicy ingredients set your menu apart, so be sure to call out just what makes those dishes so unique.

of consumers enjoy at least moderately spicy foods1
of consumers say sauces with flavorful names can pique their interest in ordering a menu item2
growth of "spiced" as a flavor descriptor on menus3
Segment focus: Casual Dining

Innovative casual dining chains are adding excitement to the menu in an approachable way. They're elevating the meal experience with complex, yet not overly spicy, flavors inspired by global cuisine.

  • THE BRASS TAP enhances traditional bar fare by incorporating peri peri, or African bird's eye chili pepper, into a variety of menu items, including a Grilled Chicken BLT Wrap with peri peri aioli
  • PUNCH BOWL SOCIAL combines vintage arcade games and upscale cuisine in a gastropub setting, serving up Spicy Mango Jalapeño Quesadillas, Adobo-Marinated Mushroom Tacos with salsa verde and Jalapeño Cucumber Limeade
  • South Korean fried chicken chain BONCHON brings unexpected spice to its Bull Dak entrée, featuring spicy chicken stir-fried with rice cakes in a fiery sauce, topped with scallion, onion and mozzarella cheese


Foodservice professionals already trust Conagra Foodservice to deliver convenience and patron satisfaction. But our products bring even more value to the plate when used as ingredients to create new twists on popular recipes. Consider RO*TEL® and Swiss Miss® to enhance sweet and spicy combinations of flavor across the menu.

1, 2 Technomic, The Flavor Consumer Trend Report, 2015
3 Datassential MenuTrends, menu penetration growth 2005-2016.