U.S. Food Much Spicier Since 1970s

Posted by: Dave DeWitt

Exploding HabaneroThe consumption of spices in the United States has exploded almost three times as fast as the population over the past several decades, data from the USDA reveals. Some of that spicy increase is due to the changing demographics of America—immigrant populations fom Mexico, the Far East, Southeast Asia and India. Immigration has resulted in more ethnic restaurants while food blogs and television cooking shows have inspired more home cooking using all kinds of chile peppers. Data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show big gains in Americans’ spice consumption since the 1970s, including 600 percent more chile pepper, 300 percent more cumin, and a whopping 1,600 percent more ginger.

McCormick, the world’s largest spice and seasoning company, produces more than one billionChipotle Chiles bottles of spices and seasonings annually in its Hunt Valley, MD, plant, nicknamed “Spiceville.” The company’s net sales in 2009 topped $3 billion. With the help of some 40,000 consumer testers, the company has decided that there’s a market for such spices. The company’s chipotle chile pepper has seen a 70 percent increase in sales since its launch five years ago. And sales of smoked paprika have jumped 300 percent since its launch three years ago.

McCormick is not the only spice company seeing growth. Penzeys Spices began as a mail-order business in 1986. It opened its first walk-in store in 1994 and now has 45 stores in 24 states, with plans to open five more this year.

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