Last month, The Washington Post took a closer look at the 10 fastest-growing U.S. industries. In what should come as a surprise to no one, generic pharmaceuticals and solar panel manufacturing were numbers one and two respectively. Other not-so-surprising showings included Pilates and yoga studios (#4), self-tanning product manufacturing (#5) and social network game development (#7).
But it was the food and beverage industry’s lone representative on the list – hot sauce production at #8 – that caught our attention. That’s right, hot sauce is the eighth fastest-growing industry in the entire nation. It’s growing even faster than green and sustainable building construction (#9).
The article attributed the hot sauce sales surge (an increase of 9.3 percent per year over the past decade) to “demographic changes, immigration, and the growing popularity of spicier ethnic food in the United States.”
So if Americans like a little extra kick in their scrambled eggs, the question is: Which brand of hot sauce is best? Cook’s Illustrated (think Sports Illustrated, but with more grilled meat) put eight of the nation’s top-selling hot sauces and one sriracha sauce to the test. The sriracha was the top-ranked condiment, but among the traditional firestarters, Frank’s RedHot was the preferred choice.
“What really put the distance between our two winning sauces and the rest of the pack was flavor balance,” wrote the Cook’s Illustrated team. “With just the right combination of punchy heat, saltiness, sweetness, and garlic, both of our highly recommended co-winning hot sauces have earned a place in our pantry.”
So where’d Tabasco rank in this who’s who of hot sauces? Dead last. Ooh, that’s cold.
MARKETING LESSON: Even a seemingly niche category can be among the nation’s biggest players (and the biggest player in that niche category isn’t always the best player).