When going gets tough, spicy foods become popular; the pain-relieving effects of capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers hot.

2013-03-25 17:40

When going gets tough, spicy foods become popular

By Rachel Lee

A popular belief, backed by a sense of economics, would have it that in an economic slump, women wear shorter skirts and opt for lipsticks of vivid colors. Here is one more myth to be added: when the going gets tough, people prefer spicier food. Take this new maxim with a hint of skepticism because the “fact” is provided by related industries but don’t dismiss it outright, considering the pain-relieving effects of capsaicin, the substance that makes peppers hot. According to Sun At Food, a leading food and dining company, sales of its Sichuan House restaurant’s popular Spicy Chili Beef Hotpot have gone up three–fold from November of last year to the end of January. Another dish, Sichuan Chili Chicken, saw a six-fold increase in sales.

Sichuan House, operated by the Korean-owned company, is a high-end Chinese restaurant in Gangnam.

“An increasing number of customers are seeking hot spicy food, although our overall numbers have gone down, so we have consistently been developing new dishes for Sichuan House to meet the demand,” said Shin Seo-ho, chief operating officer of Sun At Food.

E-Mart, the country’s largest grocery chain, also said of its private brand Rich Curry’s three spice levels, sales of “spicy” curry outnumber those of “medium” and “mild” flavors. According to the retailer, the sales ratio of the spicy, medium and mild flavors was 46:32:23 in 2012, compared to 35:35:30 in 2011.

The shrimp-flavored Saewookkang snack produced by Nongshim also saw a difference in sales figures between the hot & spicy flavor and the original. Saewookkang is considered one of the oldest and most popular snacks in Korea. The sales ratio between “hot & spicy” flavor and “original” changed from 70:30 last year to 97:3 this year.

To meet consumers’ preference and demand, the food manufacturer last year launched a new version of its Jinjja Jinjja noodle that contains 50 percent more spicy ingredients.

Food maker Ottogi also updated one of its existing ramen products to a spicier version. The firm doubled the amount of chili power to increase the product’s Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) to around 5,000. The Scoville scale is a measure of the spiciness of food. The average SHU for Korean instant noodles stands at around 2,000.

Spicy food has always been loved by people around the world. Capsaicin, the natural chemical isolated from red peppers is known to help relieve pain and stress.

Market insiders expect the rising popularity of hot food to last for a long time amid the continuing economic recession, which puts extra stress on people.

“More and more food and dining companies have been developing their own spicy products and dishes to satisfy consumers’ needs. But the important thing is it’s not just going to be about the variety of food ― the level of hotness will increase even more in the near future,” a local food company spokesman said.

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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