Ghost pepper, habanero, jalapeno or bacon-laced — pick your poison.
Whether used on eggs, oysters or chicken wings, hot sauce is becoming a big deal. U.S. sales of the spicy condiment topped $600 million as a category in 2015, according to Euromonitor International data, and nearly $2 billion globally. Hot sauce has registered sufficiently enough on the cultural radar that a serious conglomerate like General Electric launched a limited brand of its own this week — which quickly sold out within hours.
Last week, New York's annual Hot Sauce Expo played host to dozens of budding condiment entrepreneurs, some of whom have won awards and came from as far as New Zealand to peddle their sauces. CNBC took a look around and sampled some of the more interesting flavors — which bore intimidating names like Carolina Reaper, an offering that is considered mild, by the way.
Take a look at the following pictures and see if you're brave enough to try any of them.
— By CNBC's Javier E. David
Posted 30 April 2016
Bocas makes its sauce with a mix of habanero and red bell peppers, tossing in a blend of onions, spices and garlic that's spicy without being overwhelming. Its ingredients are locally sourced, and the company contributes $1 per bottle (which costs $7) to a scholarship fund for indigenous students in Panama.
Ohio-based CaJohns Fiery Foods lives up to its name with an assortment of hot sauces whose names are enough to scare off those with faint taste buds. CaJohns' confections include names like Cayenne Elixir, Caboom! Bayou-Q Spicy and Fatalii, and the company has won three Expo awards for its inventive (and intensely hot) sauces.
Ghost Scream's motto is "enjoy with eyes wide open," which is precisely what tasters do when trying this ultraspicy brand. The company's products include a jam made from chili and garlic (as sweat-inducing as it sounds) and a paste made from the same ingredients.
Jak Jeckel boasts that it wants to achieve balance instead of overwhelming force. The company goes by the concept of "flavor first rather than blistering heat" and it features a range of moderately spiced flavors like Winter Cinnamon, Green Sauce and a tomato-based Detroit Syle Coney Sauce.
Tabasco is still considered the gold standard of hot sauces, and the company has recently expanded its offerings beyond its signature red-hot line. Tabasco's family now includes Buffalo Style, a Sweet & Spicy Asian blend and a Garlic Pepper that's near volcanic.
Keeping up with the evolving tastes of foodies is no easy task, but Queen Majesty makes a solid effort. The Brooklyn-based company's line of sauces are vegan, gluten-free and don't contain sugar. Condiment lovers can try the medium-bodied jalapeno, tequila and lime blend, or go for something hotter: a red habanero and coffee mix that's infused with at least three types of vinegar, ginger root and red pepper (of course).