Cambodian food artisans jump on global ‘hot’ market trend
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As the trend is spurred on by next-generation foodies seeking the latest in fiery new flavours, Cambodian hot sauce innovators from Kampot to Battambang are unleashing their own condiment concoctions on a waiting world in hopes of sparking a hot property of their own.
According to a Fortune Business Insights (FBI) report, it is developing countries and economies, especially those in the Asia-Pacific region, that are best poised to enjoy impressive growth rates in the global hot sauce market, higher in fact than the growth rates achieved on average elsewhere.
“The inherent diversity in regional cuisines [in the Asia-Pacific region] courtesy of their heavy reliance on spices, has given rise to [truly] authentic, exotic and hyperlocal flavours of hot sauces, [that are boosting] the growth of the total market’s size.”
The growth of tourism to the region and sampling of the local cuisines (pre-COVID) has further intensified the international demand for hot sauces.
The report added, “Increasing familiarity with regional cuisines is expected to benefit hot sauce sales for the foreseeable future.”
Taking note of this trend and opportunity, Cambodian small businesses have stepped up to the plate, producing a diverse range of hot sauces home-made and home-grown in the Kingdom.
Popular hot sauce brand Battambang Blaze said its business grew naturally from sharing its own experimentation with friends.
“Five years ago, we were struggling to find a delicious, spicy sauce in Battambang, so we started to experiment with the fresh chillies available here. We shared our mix with friends and business owners and, after a while, there were requests for sales and that was the birth of Battambang Blaze.”
The company added: “Now, we are a locally sourced hot sauce made with fresh ingredients from local markets. It is a slow-cooked and labour-intensive sauce that we craft in relatively small batches, but we feel that this method allows the best balance of flavour.”
The company also said it has seen demand growing for its product, even amid the pandemic.
“We have seen a growth in demand this year in particular. Some of this stems from the fact that people are staying home more and cooking for themselves. We are also more visible now compared with previous years and that has meant an increase in sales to locals also,” it added.
The FBI report concurs. It states that the influence of broadening taste buds has encouraged consumers to replicate the same eating experiences they have had abroad once they are home and that the utilisation of hot sauce has aligned with evolving dietary patterns, to positive affect in market forecasts.
Battambang Blaze said: “Personally, we love the flavours and the physical sensations associated with the consumption of chilli sauce. We know everything that goes into it and are really proud to make something that is healthy, delicious and made with local products. We have tried to keep it as simple and as pure as possible.”
Indeed, the FBI report noted that people are buying in to both the flavour and guilt-free aspect of consuming hot sauce products.
“Local offerings provide taste along with beneficial traits such as superior nutritional profiles, organic and non-genetically modified retail positioning. Consumers are opting for healthful indulgences and ‘nutritionally flavourful’ is expected to become a buzz-phrase for the sustainable sales of hot sauce worldwide.”
The nature of the hot sauce market also makes it ripe for the taking, presenting small and medium enterprises (SMEs) with a unique opportunity.
“Because the global market for hot sauce remains largely fragmented, it provides enormous space for [both] smaller boutique producers and private label brands, who are finding success with their craft [by positioning theirs as one that] delivers a unique taste experience,” the report added.
Espresso Kampot is one such brand on the forefront of hot sauce innovation and showcases a wide range of blends that each present a unique take on their home-grown chillies.
Owner and founder Angus Whelan said he started making hot sauce for himself at first, before his friend asked him to make a commissioned batch.
“It gave me a chance to explore different methods and experience batch-making,” he said.
“I enjoy making different batches because of the control it gives me over the product. I have learnt so much about balancing spice levels and flavour profiles as well as using methods such as lacto fermentation to improve the end product. I’m constantly having new cravings or ideas and need to see them come to life and this makes for interesting sauces and a wide variety of flavours. I grow all my own ingredients and have now begun growing super-hot chillies, which are the next step up from enjoying a bit of hot sauce with your food. I’m looking forward to bringing them to the market, but they are not for the faint hearted.”
Growing demand is attracting a number of other players into the market.
Phnom Penh-based food company Dishthatup specialises in weekly set menus available for delivery. However, owner and founder Billy Ryan has branched into making a signature hot sauce called “You’re Abit Saucy Hawt Stuff’, which she stocks at a number of shops and bars around the capital and also sells online.
“My sauce is a little different from your regular chilli sauces because it is a mix of a classic American Buffalo style sauce and a tangy vinegar, but I also keep all the seeds and bits in it, just like South African Peri Peri sauce. Initially you will taste sugar which then rolls into garlic and a tangy taste that [finishes with] the kick of Green Thai Chilli but leaves a not [too] overpowering burn.”
She continued: “The demand for hot sauce is a constant and growing trend in Cambodia. I initially aimed at the expanding expat community that resides here, but it just so happens that locals love them too. I really enjoy offering bespoke orders and specials of smaller batches to keep quality at its best – and that also appeals to my customers.”
Indeed, the FBI report stated that artisanal formats of hot sauces are expected to witness greater traction than conventional ones for the foreseeable future.
“Companies operating in the market are tapping into local taste preferences by working on flavours that are indigenous to a particular region – the trend of providing “acquainted offerings” is expected to act as a crucial driving factor [in] the growth of the market.”
Confirel has taken its hot sauce, made under the brand name Kirum, to another level by ensuring that it not only delivers on the palate, but also promotes positive development through its production.
The company said that all its products are produced in line with its core mission: to preserve and protect sugar palm trees and the much-needed income they bring to farmers, whose income they significantly increase.
“We also give 5 percent of our net revenue to help the most vulnerable people in Cambodia through a credible and transparent process and by giving a fair benefit to all involved stakeholders,” it said.
The company said its pepper sauce is unique, because it is composed of two geographically protected ingredients, Green Kampot Pepper and Kampong Speu Palm sugar.
“This gives the sauce its own uniquely spicy and sour flavour. Our sauce is also healthy. It’s low in calories, rich in vitamins, oligo-elements and antioxidants and is made with 100 percent organic Cambodian ingredients,” it added.
Indeed, because the hot sauce trend is set to deliver a significant boost in sales to producers in developing markets and their share is expected to scale up in the forthcoming years, the micro-sector presents a unique opportunity for SME producers in the Kingdom and all round good news for hot sauce lovers everywhere.