‘Swicy’ food is sweeping the world, but is Australia on board?

There's something to be said for using a bit of sweetness to soften a spicy kick.

There's something to be said for using a bit of sweetness to soften a spicy kick. Photo: Getty

Fried chicken drenched in a tangy sauce of thick honey with a hot kick or ice cream with a twist; sweet and spicy might seem to be on opposite ends of the flavour spectrum, but an increasing number of foodies are mixing them.

The combination, dubbed ‘swicy’, appears to be sweeping supermarket aisles and restaurants alike internationally, with the trend noted by American and UK news outlets.

Experts told The New Daily despite the new name, the combination of sweet and spicy flavours is nothing new, and has yet to hit the big time in Australia apart from occasional spikes in interest.

Although not exactly ubiquitous, you can get such a fix in Australia with hot honey for sale in supermarkets around the country, or slathered over chicken at Red Rooster.

swicy food

Mango, chilli and honey salad is one example of a swicy dish. Photo: Getty

University of Adelaide associate professor in media Michelle Phillipov said individually, sweet and spicy flavours “hit the pleasure centres of your brain” in different ways.

Combining them can increase that effect.

“[Swicy food] is a step on from the sweet and salty trends that we have seen for a number of years,” Phillipov said.

“It’s a little bit more adventurous, it trends a little bit younger.

“But I think it really reflects [people] growing adventurous and greater interest in international foods and … food trends as well.”

Campaigns for spicy food tend to target young men by presenting the products as a challenge for those strong enough to overcome, but adding sweetness seems to dampen the gender dynamic in advertising for swicy food, she said.

The flavour profile has long been common in many cuisines, from Korean to Mexican.

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With Australia’s strong international food scene, this means locals have been exposed to products such as the gochujang paste used in Korean soups, marinades or sauces, and spicy hot chocolates originating from Central America.

Although Australia has proved itself not to be entirely against swicy food, that doesn’t mean the flavour is suddenly going to be everywhere.

Americans might be seeing everything from swicy coca-cola to swicy frozen pizza hit supermarket shelves, but in Australia, stores such as Woolworths and Coles haven’t seen the flavour become a widespread trend in either consumer interest or products from suppliers.

Phillipov said part of the reason is American consumers have a sweeter palate than Australians.

Although there are global trends, Australian consumers don’t have much in common with their American or British counterparts, Food Industry Foresight managing director Sissel Rosengren said.

“Both in the US and UK, it’s a chain market … that’s restaurant chains, but first and foremost fast food chains,” Rosengren said.

“We don’t like to eat in chains in [Australia]. Close to 80 per cent of all commercial food service outlets … are actually owner-operated, independent outlets.

“We have such an open and evolved palate in this country, and we like eating all sorts of different cuisines, and we don’t see them as foreign.”

Topics: Food
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