SCOTLAND doesn’t have much of a pedigree when it comes to spicy food.

The generous measure of black pepper in haggis is about as picante as its gets when it comes to our own homely fare.

Over the past few years, however, the global market for hot sauce has exploded – and it’s a trend that Scots appear to be on board with.

According to The Grocer, while the popularity of table sauces like salad cream and mustard has slumped in the UK, the market for hot sauce has boomed.

In 2021, the global hot sauce market was worth around £7.4 billion. By 2031, it’s predicted to reach £11.9 billion as more and more consumers develop a taste (and a tolerance) for heat.

Yet although large brands such as Nando’s have reaped a significant portion of the economic rewards (overtaking Hellman’s Light Mayonnaise as the UK’s fourth most purchased table sauce), smaller, Scottish producers are also getting in on the action.

“The Scottish palate isn’t great with spice,” said Nick Forrest, founder of the Edinburgh-based Bonnie Sauce Co.

“It wouldn’t make sense for our sauces to blow your head off. I love spice but surprisingly I’m not that good with really hot foods.

“So, it was important for me that you can actually taste the flavours we put into it. That they give you a wee kick but nothing too severe.”

Bonnie Sauce Co. started off the back of Forrest’s Mexican-Scottish burrito business: Bonnie Burrito.

Beginning life as a food truck and developing into two permanent locations in Edinburgh, Bonnie Burrito fuses the ingredients of Scotland with Mexican classics.

Customers fill their burritos with haggis or “Irn-Bru pulled pork” before choosing from the full range of Bonnie Sauce Co. sauces, which are now stocked in delis, grocers and farm shops across the country.

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“This is a country where we have so many people of different nationalities living here now, with each one bringing their own food culture,” said Forrest.

“And I think as that’s happened Scottish people have become more adventurous with their tastes and are willing to try spicier foods.

“There’s a real social element to it, too. We see it quite a lot in our stores, groups of friends egging each other on to try the hottest sauce and laughing at the reactions. It’s quite entertaining.”

Although brands like Tabasco and Nando’s are widely recognised and purchased across the globe, the culture surrounding hot sauce thrives on variety.

This means that much smaller producers are able to make a name for themselves in a way they wouldn’t be able to if they were competing with Heinz ketchup, for example.

Ahimsaka Dharma-pupil is a retired air traffic control engineer turned Buddhist who runs a hot sauce business out of his home kitchen on the Black Isle.

His brand, Chillimansales, sells a wide range of sauces suited to diverse array of global clientele.

From milder variations containing mango, pineapple or ginger to sauces so spicy Ahimsaka will only sell them to customers he knows are able to handle it.

“Hot sauce maker, including myself, we are incredibly passionate about what we do,” he told The National.

“I’m super proud of my product. It’s locally sourced, using all fresh ingredients, which allows me to support other small businesses in the area.

“I’ve got customers in Japan, in the USA, and in Canada. And I think part of that is because, like lots of Scottish producers, I’m not afraid to innovate.”

Being in a country without much of a culinary history relating to intense heat perhaps affords producers a certain freedom and playfulness.

Keen not to exclude anyone, Ahimsaka has a sauce containing no chillis at all (“using sweet red pepper, roast fennel and roast garlic”) and is even experimenting with cold brew coffee with chilli.

“We may not be a spicy nation but we’re getting there,” said Ahimsaka.

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“It’s a really interesting time for small producers because as the price of, say, tomato ketchup goes up, it essentially costs the same as our bottles.

“That’s a great opportunity for us to grip the market even more and get people interested in hot sauce.

“And it’s work that I, personally, am willing to do because I’m passionate about it. I love going to markets and being an ambassador, encouraging people to try my sauce and showing them how versatile it can be.

“Not many people know you can put blueberry hot sauce over pancakes and ice cream but it’s delicious!”

YouTube shows such as Hot Ones – where celebrities are interviewed as they eat progressively spicier chicken wings – have boosted the profile of hot sauce globally and shown that spice is an experience rather than a mere flavour.

Many more hot sauce companies have popped up in Scotland in recent years – from Leithal Hot Sauces in Edinburgh to Singularity Sauce Co. in the north east.

And as YouTube shows such as Hot Ones – where celebrities are interviewed as they eat progressively spicier chicken wings – boost the profile of hot sauce globally and show that spice is an experience rather than a mere flavour, it’s likely that spicier scran will be making its way to the dinner table of more Scots in the future.