Heinz and Wingstop are the latest brands to offer spicy honey, making the once elite condiment fully mainstream
There was a time, not so long ago, when hot honey was everywhere. It adorned every cool pizza and hipster sandwich, the novelty of spicy and sweet at once delicious and not actually that original. But according to some national brands, you’d be mistaken in thinking hot honey has had its heyday. Heinz is launching its new Heinz 57 condiment collection, which includes two infused honeys: Hot Chili and Black Truffle. Congratulations, hot honey, on completing the journey from indie condiment to market saturation.
The “chef inspired” line aims to make trends more accessible, according to Heinz, and the company partnered with Lee Wolen and Joe Frillman to develop the honeys, as well as three “crunch sauces,” which is not an oxymoron but rather an oil-based condiment filled with crunchy bits in flavors like Roasted Garlic and Mandarin Orange Miso. “The HEINZ 57 Collection enables foodies to discover and explore new ingredients and cuisines with a modern twist to even the most tried and true family favorites,” said Wolen in a press release. The honeys will be available nationwide starting July 19.
Chain and fried chicken bracket contestant Wingstop also recently introduced a limited-edition hot honey rub option for its wings. “We had to get in on the hot honey game in a way that only the Flavor Experts could – with a dry rub differentiator,” said Marisa Carona, Wingstop’s Chief Growth Officer in a press release. But just what is the “hot honey game,” why do they need to get into it now, when the vanguards have moved on to chili crips and ube?
Mike Kurtz, who founded Mike’s Hot Honey in 2010, says he got the idea in Brazil, when he went to a pizzeria that had jars of honey with chilis on the table, to be used as a condiment on the pies. He doesn’t specify where in Brazil this was, or whether it was a common thing or something this pizzeria was specifically known for. And unfortunately, any Google search for “Brazilian hot honey” just leads back to Kurtz’s “discovery.”
The trend took off when Kurtz was working at Paulie Gee’s pizzeria in Brooklyn, and collaborated on a pizza that used the condiment. It grew from there, in restaurants and on grocery shelves and eventually to its own fried chicken stand in Madison Square Garden, and spicy honey competitors like Bees Knees and AR’s followed, with the eternal condiment promise that it can be used “on anything.” AR’s founder, Ames Russell, is even releasing the Hot Honey Cookbook next month, with 60 recipes featuring “the condiment that’s getting all the buzz these days.”
With Heinz and Wingstop on board, the hot honey trend has obviously reached its zenith. But it’s also starting to feel like deja vu from when the trend began. When Kurtz founded Mike’s Hot Honey, America was just beginning to eke its way out of a recession that had changed the food landscape. Everything was a food truck or a speakeasy. “Lowbrow” foods like tater tots and mac and cheese became the foundation of every playful gastropub menu. Bacon was epic, thanks to pressure from the Pork Board. And Americans were obsessing over condiments like Sriracha, which gave flavor to all those bland, cheap tater tots.
And now, well, hello again speakeasies and spicy condiments and “lowbrow” foods made cool. And hello again recession. Everything not-that-old is new again. But whatever, hot honey is still pretty good.