“I would say 2012 is when things started getting hot — excuse the pun,” says Christine Keller, director of trend practice at CCD Innovation, an Emeryville food and beverage development company.

But it’s not heat for its macho factor, it’s about trying out new types of chiles, spice blends and sauces for their own distinct flavors. Tabasco, Cajun and jerk spices are getting edged out by Padrón peppers, piri piri and togarashi. And while Americans used to stay in the relative comfort zone of smoky and sweet spices like barbecue sauce and chipotle, more of us are learning to navigate the more complex territory of sour and fermented heat, whether by sprinkling the Mexican chile-lime seasoning Tajín on fresh fruit or turning kimchi into an everyday staple. Read More>>