Who Eats Hot Sauce and Why? A Guide To Demographics

The hot sauce industry forecasts a rise in sales from now and into 2026 and has projections that the market size will reach 3.77 billion USD according to globenewwire.com. I have entered the hot sauce industry but everything I research about business states that I need to know who my customers are going to be. Who is eating hot sauce and why are they eating it?

Market demographics for consumers of hot sauce are showing that Millennials and Mexican, Asian and Latin American Immigrant populations are consuming the largest percentage of hot sauces. Subgroups of the consumers are also the Baby Boomers generation and anyone with thrill seeking personality types. Generation Z is expected to follow the trend of hot sauce consumption that the Millennials have laid down.

According to specialtyfoods.com hot sauce has had a growth of over 150% in 2000 and that is more than the combined growth of all condiment sales. Traditional hot sauces are taking a back seat as new and hotter creations are being consumed. Ethnic influenced hot sauces like Gochujang, harissa and chili oil and other gourmet hot sauces have seeped into mainstream because of the demand for these sauces. Who is eating them?

Hot sauce is consumed by…

  • Males ages 18 to 55 & Females ages 18 to 44 eat more than the average amount of hot sauce
  • Males / Females 55 plus
  • 56% of households have hot sauce in their pantry
  • Consumers in the South US eat more hot sauce then other regions
  • 95% of hot sauce sales are in the US

Hot sauce phenomenon

Hot sauce consumption has become an anomaly and due to its extreme spiciness should deter consumers, but taste testing new sauces has become somewhat of a hobby for many much like wine, beer or food tasting has. With almost thousands of brands, variety, and types of hot sauce availably, there are plenty of opportunities for people of many tolerance levels and flavor preferences to enjoy it.

The many types of hot sauce available and many heat levels that are available has made it approachable, acceptable, and consumable by many different types of people. In a statement…hot sauce is consumed by everyone! However, there are certainly many personality types, cultural groups and generations of people who consume more hot sauce than the general population known as the Target Market.


Millennials love new experiences according to USA Today, making hot sauce the trend to spice up a bland dish and 45% of Millennials are willing to try new flavorings at convenience stores or prepared food areas states cspdaily. This is why you see these flavors more and more at these and other frequented locations. Sriracha has become the go to condiment for this generation and is being combined with other food products as well as non-edibles.

Males and females ages 23 to 38, Millennials, are some of the largest consumers of hot sauce and specifically eat Sriracha as their go to condiment. While millennials are not completely responsible for ALL hot sauce consumption, they are the largest living generational group. According to Invesp about 54% of millennial purchases are online so this would make sense with the influx of websites where hot sauce is available for sale.

12.16% – Hot Sauce Consumption Annual Growth Rate

Baby Boomers

Being an older population of people, whose taste buds are not as sensitive to spice as they once were, Boomers are consuming more hot sauces than they ever have. As the taste receptors decrease or become dull Boomers are reaching for more bold and spicy flavors. However, they do not consume as much as the Millennial population who currently drive sales in the hot sauce industry.

In an article published by Specialty Foods, Boomers are partly responsible for the increase or “boom” in sales and according to buxton spend more money than any other generation, partly because they have more. Fona states that Boomers are drawn towards unique flavors and spicy sauces and are likely to incorporate cultural flavors or ethnic sauces into their diet.

25.52% – Mac & Cheese, Popular Hot Sauce Food Pairing

Generation Z

Will Generation Z eat hot sauce? Statistically speaking the next generation is more likely to try new and unfamiliar flavors, including new hot sauce flavors. Millennial parents are ok with their children enjoying ethnic cuisine which often contain spice induced dishes. Spicy flavors are being introduced into snacks and fast-food restaurants and is mainstreaming hot sauce flavorings.

Gen Z is reaching the age of steady employment and regular spending. According to pewresearch.com Generation Z is anyone born after 1997. Flavors are being explored by manufactures as much as they are consumers, and the next generation is ready to try the newest flavors and hottest sauces.

95% – Hot Sauce Sales in the US

We all know that Generation Z has embraced technology like no other generation and relies heavily on Youtube as an information channel. About 85% of the Gen Z population learns about products through social media channels. Other social media channels are the norm for how purchasing decisions are made so marketing hot sauce through these avenues is obvious.

45% of People Eat Hot Sauce With Their Food

Thrill seeker / challenger

The hot sauce market has continually reached out to this demographic by extending the level of heat in sauces and using outrageous names and labels indicating such. There will continue to be room for hot sauce contests as these personality types challenge each other in hot sauce eating contests and other testosterone fueled challenges. The thrill seeker is willing to try the next hottest sauce simply to boast that they have.

According to Thillist this is the type of person who skydives, jumps out of planes, enjoys adventurous travel…and also loves hot sauce. Some manufacturers like Yellowbird have jumped on the marketing bandwagon produce a series of sauces called the Thrill Seeker Collection. Some studies show that sensation seeking personalities are more likely to enjoy spicy food which may answer why you could find hot sauce sales being made in locations that may not seem likely.

Ethnic consumers

The foreign-born population has increased by 120% since 1997 in the United States and this contributes to much of the spicy food and hot sauce sales. Mexican, Asian and Latin American consumers are growing, and it is these populations that make up a large part of the hot sauce market. The sauces being consumed are some of the staple condiments that have embraced cultures for centuries.

It is this increase in population that has pushed manufactures to produce ethnically spicy sauces like Gochujang, Shatta and Thai style hot sauces into mainstream population. Standard “ethnically” replicated sauces like a Mexican hot sauce continue to thrive and helped pave the way for consumers to try new flavors.

120% – Foreign Population increase since 1997

Japan is the global leader in hot sauce consumption and North America is anticipated as having the fastest growing demand for hot sauces according to Transparency Market Research. Areas of Western Europe have a smaller demand for hot sauces due to their health conscience diets.

Countries with the highest hot sauce consumption

Aside from being an interesting fact about hot sauce consumption the facts in this post could also be used in marketing and selling your brand of sauce. I always try to keep research up to date and current so the results should only include dates from the last five years. I could give some quick stereotypical responses here but I believe in the hard data.

Hot sauce sales have increased in the world over the last ten years. In fact they have more than doubled. This includes data up to 2019 with projections into 2020.

Total sales of hot sauce in the US is projected to reach 1.65 billion US dollars. So from these figures about 95% of hot sauce sales are in the US. The demand for spicy cuisine, specifically Mexican and Asian foods is rising according to globalnewswire.com who state the hot sales are expected to double by 2026.

56% of US households have hot sauce in their pantry

Studies from NPD found that 56% of households in the US have hot sauce in the pantry, making it one of the more common condiments in any home. With over 123 million households in the US…that is a lot of hot sauce…or the potential for a lot of hot sauce sales.

What type of hot sauces are leading these sales?

Tabasco or Louisiana style hot sauce as well as, Habanero, Jalapeno and Sweet and Spicy sauce top the list as being the best selling type of sauces. They are being delivered by mass merchandisers, retail specialists, convenience stores and online stores. It is no surprise to me to discover that North America leads the sales followed closely behind by Japan, Europe, Asia Pacific, South America and the Middle East.

What could bring the hot sauce market down?

There are many factors that could hinder this growing market, but the increasing cost of spices and produce could stand in the way according to globalnewswire. There is no way to determine which non selective natural disaster could reach an area where hot peppers are mass produced and cause prices to increase.

Who not to market to?

Markets that don’t consume as much hot sauce as others are in Russia, Australia and Africa. Although both the Australian and African hot sauce markets are increasing. Certain demographics like infants and children are not driving hot sauce sales either.

It doesn’t take much research to understand that certain ethnic groups consume more hot sauce than others and I have never seen a baby with hot sauce in their bottle. However, knowing the demographics of who is consuming hot sauces and who will continue is necessary if you want to enter the hot sauce business. There are markets in the geographic areas mentioned above but are relatively small compared to sales in the US.

Where are consumers buying hot sauce?

Consumers are still continuing to buy hot sauces in stores that are retail chains as well as smaller convenience stores. Online purchases of hot sauce are close behind and offer a much larger selection but this has become a niche market.

Walking through a Walmart and into the hot sauce section I notice there is not an overly large selection of brands. Our local chain store Wegmans has a larger variety of sauces but if I take away the top selling brands like Texas Petes, Cholula, Franks RedHot and Tabasco brand there’s only a few I don’t know. Compared to the sections of other condiments the hot sauce section is small, indicating that online sales for hot sauces will continue to grow.

The Millennial generation and generations to come will inevitably be consuming hot sauces as projection show the marketing increasing in size. Social media, influencers, and Youtube will drive the products into mainstream and we will continue to purchase new and exotic hot sauces through the internet for some years to come.

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