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Hot and spicy flavors trending on restaurant menus in the last 6 months of 2014

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This restaurant news has just been released from Technomic on emerging trends for the second half of 2014. Which ingredients (or flavors) are gaining in popularity and appearing on more menus? Technomic, the nation's leading foodservice research and consulting firm, sees trends in hot peppers and sauces beyond Sriracha, barbecue flavors in quick service restaurant (QSR) handhelds like sandwiches and pizzas, and classic snack brands incorporated into new menu offerings.

Here is what Technomic experts see emerging:

1. Move Over Sriracha: Thailand's take-the-top-off-your-head chile-and-vinegar condiment is the new chipotle. Customers are seeking newer and even bolder taste sensations imparted by peppers and sauces from Asia, Latin America and North Africa: habanero, serrano, harissa, shishito, togarashi, sweet chili, spicy mayos and aiolis.

2. Everyone Loves Barbecue: Authentic regional interpretations of slow-cooked barbecue continue to have broad appeal, but are trending towards using barbecue sauces and flavors in handheld food offerings. Even conventional barbecue chains have rolled out nontraditional barbecue-inspired handhelds.

3. What's in that Snack: Classic snacks are being incorporated into novelty foods that have mouthwatering allure like Subway's Fritos Chicken Enchilada Melt and Dunkin' Donuts' iced coffee flavors inspired by Baskin-Robbins ice creams.

4. Tapa Takeovers Asian-style: Following the trend of the popular Latin-inspired tapas plates, Asian-influenced bites are being served in QSRs as well as fine-dining restaurants that are incorporating dim sum-style service.

5. Beverages Bubbling Over: Specialty teas; lemonade-iced tea blends; restaurant originals such as house-made sodas; smoothies beyond fruit, featuring surprising ingredients like kale or beets, are gaining presence on menus. Shrubs and bitters using local produce – strawberries, rhubarb and spruce shoots are being used to make mocktails and cocktails. And, when it comes to adult beverage trends, hops rule; IPAs and other hoppy craft beers are surfacing in many different concoctions.

6. Shrinking menus: Across all dining venues, casual-dining chains are reducing menus. Operations can slow down when menus get too big, so a less-is-more approach creates a more user-friendly customer experience.

Technomic brings together the best judgments of its consultants and editors to periodically identify and assess trends that may significantly impact the restaurant industry. These expert insights are based on site visits evaluating the restaurant scene in cities across the country as well as interviews and surveys of operators, chefs and consumers, backed up by qualitative and quantitative data from its vast databases.

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