‘Swicy’ food and drink trend takes supermarkets by storm this summer

Starbucks’ spicy dragonfruit and spicy pineapple drinks are part of the fashion for sweet and spicy flavours  (Starbucks)
Starbucks’ spicy dragonfruit and spicy pineapple drinks are part of the fashion for sweet and spicy flavours (Starbucks)

The “swicy” food trend has taken over supermarket shelves, from Walmart to Target.

Coming in all sorts of food items, including chips, popcorn, burgers, and ice cream, as well as drinks from brands like Starbucks and Coca-Cola, companies are hopping on the “swicy” trend by offering sweet and spicy versions of their most popular products.

“The spicy trend is here to stay,” food industry advisor Sally Lyons Wyatt of market research firm Circana explained to CNN. “My whole motto for a couple of years has been, ‘the hotter the better’, because consumers gravitate to it. Traditionally, it was younger consumers that were driving this but now we’ve seen bold flavors being embraced by most age groups but the dominant are still younger consumers.”

Younger generations – including Zillennials, Gen Z, and Gen Alpha – may have been driving up the demand for these hot new products with the best of both worlds, but the “swicy” trend hasn’t emerged out of nowhere, it’s been a decade in the making. “Swicy” products have long dominated snack aisles at grocery stores. However, Lyons noted, “But the proliferation of spiciness across different categories, like beverages, that part is relatively new.”

In February, Coca-Cola, took the “swicy” trend beyond the confines of the snack category when it released its first new permanent soda flavor in years: Coca-Cola Spiced. Company research indicated an increase in consumer willingness to try a spiced beverage, bolder flavors and “more complex flavor profiles”, so the company decided to take a leap and try a “swicy” new twist on its beloved soda.

Meanwhile, Starbucks recently released a limited line of spring lemonade drinks imbued with spice in three different flavors: spicy dragonfruit, spicy pineapple, and spicy strawberry. Each flavor was reportedly inspired by the “swicy” trend, providing customers with their own spin on the popular sweet and spicy flavor profile.

These brands are not just trying to capitalize on the “swicy” trend, but turn it into a commercial mainstay with longevity.

“Americans have made cult-favorites out of condiments like Sriracha and hot honey. But there certainly is an expanded appetite for spicy foods and flavors, one that is driven by wanting to explore unfamiliar ingredients and cuisines,” Mintel foodservice analyst Varchasvi Singh explained. “This enthusiasm isn’t a fad, it is here to stay.”

There has been a yearly nine percent increase in dollar sales for foods and beverages described as “spicy,” according to data collected by Circana. New data sets show that 11 percent of adults aged 25 to 34 reported that they enjoy “bold” flavors, a marked increase from four percent of the same demographic in 2019.