Hot sauce is main course at New York showcase
By Sebastien Malo
NEW YORK (Reuters) - New Zealand chef-turned-entrepreneur Chris Cullen seems to have hot sauce running in his veins, judging from the passionate way he speaks about one of America's hottest food trends.
"I had a love of food and all things hot and spicy ever since I can remember," says Cullen, one of 50 or so vendors offering their interpretations of the spicy condiment at this weekend's New York City Hot Sauce Expo in Brooklyn.
"Culley," as he is best known, is not alone his devotion to the hot stuff. The expo is expected to draw thousands of "chili heads" paying between $10 and $100 each (for "super VIP" tickets) to sample a breathtaking array of a condiment that has gone from cult status to mainstream in recent years.
"There's really a strong sense for us that there is a market up in the States," said Cullen, who has concocted a limited-edition kiwi-based hot sauce, known as Thunder from Down Under, to set himself apart from the pack. "And there doesn't seem to be an end to it."
The U.S. hot sauce market has grown to $607 million from $228 million in 2000, according to market research firm Euromonitor International. Revenues from hot sauce sales could swell to $1.3 billion by 2019, according to researcher IBISWorld.
Growth is in part a reflection of changing American tastes and the rising popularity of spicier international cuisines such as Thai and Szechwan food.
Demographic trends have played a part, too. Sales of hot sauce have risen alongside the number of Hispanics and Asians living in the United States, according to a 2014 study by IBISWorld.
This year, organizers say they had to turn down more than three quarters of the vendors who applied for the show, which will cover 65,000 square feet (6,000 square meters) of space at the Brooklyn Expo Center. Continued...