The Heat Index of Hot Sauces

Spicy peppers, salsas, and sauces might taste mild to one person and impossibly hot to the next. The hotness of foods is subjective, and to more accurately measure the true hotness of an item, food scientists have come up with two systems of testing and measurement: the industry-standard Scoville Scale, and–more recently–High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC).


What is Scoville Scale?

The Scoville scale is a measure of the 'hotness' of a pepper or product derived from peppers, like hot sauce. The scale measures the concentration of capsaicin, the chemical that produces the sensation of heat when it hits our taste buds. The name capsaicin comes from the Latin words, genus capsicum, the scientific classification of the pepper plant. Capsaicin occurs naturally in chilli peppers, along with a variety of very similar compounds called capsaicinoids. The precise ratio of those capsaicinoids causes the variations in taste reaction to different pepper species. For instance, habanero peppers produce a delayed taste reaction, while other peppers produce a more immediate reaction. 


Scoville scale numbers are often used in marketing campaigns for hot sauces that want to market themselves as legitimately “hot.” This kind of branding is enticing to daredevil customers who want to find out if they can handle the hottest sauces out there. 


What is High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)?

HPLC is a technique that chemists use to analyze mixtures. This technique can help chemists isolate, identify, and quantify the individual components that make up a sample mixture. This allows scientists to precisely identify the ratio of capsaicinoids in a sample of hot sauce and come up with an accurate Scoville rating. 


Taste Matters

As more sauce manufacturers are actively striving to attain fiery success with their products, it's important to remember that taste always matters. Whether or not the heat is the highest in the world, a hot sauce isn’t probably going to sell well if the flavour isn’t there.


While the Scoville rating may definitely be a deciding factor for some hot sauce lovers, if a product doesn’t have a decent flavour, the heat factor doesn’t count for much.


What goes into your hot sauce bottles must be spicy, delicious, and accompanied by a unique promoting campaign to actually stand out in the ultra-competitive hot sauce marketplace.