An estimated 56 percent of U.S. households keep hot sauce in the kitchen, and distributors ship more classic, Louisiana-style hot sauce to food outlets than any other variety, according to The NPD Group, a global information company.
However, the growth in Louisiana-style hot sauce shipments has slowed because so many varieties of hot sauce are now available. Case shipments of some habanero hot sauce flavors, particularly habanero with fruit flavors like mango, grew triple-digits in 2014, compared to 2013. Distributors also shipped twice as many cases of chipotle hot sauce flavors and Srircha in 2014 than in 2013.
NPD pulled the hot sauce information from its recent audit of U.S. kitchens.
Consumers in the South eat the most hot sauce, while Easterners use the least. Women aged 18-44 and men 18-54 consume more hot sauce, according to NPD. Dual-income, no-kids households eat the most hot sauce.
According to NPD, there's a scientific explanation behind consumers' willingness to feel the burn on their tongues and to experience the watery eyes that often accompany eating hot sauce.
The burning sensation is caused by capsaicin, a chemical that transmits that signal from the nerve endings in the mouth to the brain.
"The body defends itself against the pain sensation by secreting endorphins, natural painkillers that cause a physical 'rush,' which is similar to a 'runner’s high,'” according to NPD.