Would you like fire with that? McD's tests "ultra hot" peppers

McDonald's (MCD), whose launch of All-Day Breakfast has been a hit with consumers, is betting that its good fortune will continue by taking a turn to the spicy side.

More than 100 franchise and company-owned restaurants in San Diego County, California, are test-marketing a "Signature Sriracha" sandwich with the ultra-hot Asian-inspired sauce. The company is also testing the "Jalapeno Double," featuring the hot pepper at select restaurants nationwide for a limited time.


"Our chefs are always evolving our menu and providing our customers with exciting menu items and we look forward to learning more from these tests," said Jeanette DeBartolo, a spokeswoman for the Oakbrook, Illinois-based company, in an email.

According to McDonald's, the Signature Sriracha includes a Sriracha Big Mac special sauce, white cheddar, crispy onions, a spinach/kale blend and tomato. Sales of the sandwich began in Southern California on June 20 and will start in Seattle July 7. No other markets are scheduled to begin sales. There's no set schedule for how McDonald's introduces new menu items, according to DeBartolo. Sometimes, the process takes a while. The Jalapeno Double, for instance, was first tested in 2014, and the McRib has made temporary appearances on McDonald's menus for decades

The Signature Crafted line allows consumers to choose between Sriracha, Guacamole and Maple Bacon Dijon flavors, beef and two different types of chicken and three varieties of buns. Whether the increased customization will lead to more sales is hard to say. Pricier burger chains, including SmashBurger, have offered a variety of choices for years.

CEO Steve Easterbrook is trying to "spice up" the chain's menu, which franchisees had complained for years had become bloated with poorly selling items. McDonald's has tried to bring the heat previously with limited-time menu options such as Green Chile Double Burger, Jalapeno Kicker Quarter Pounder, and the Quarter Pounder Hot All Over.

Other chains have also turned to spicier items in recent years. Rival Burger King (QSR) has found some success with the Jalapenos-based Angry Whopper and Angriest Whopper. Wendy's (WEN) introduced the Jalapeno Spicy Chicken Sandwich and Ghost Pepper Fries last year.

Hot sauce sales have surged 150 percent since 2000 -- more than the sum of the growth of all traditional condiments combined -- as the products have evolved from a niche product to a mainstream part of the American diet, according to research firm Euromonitor. And their popularity shows no signs of slowing over the next five years: market researchers expect sales to grow 15 times faster than the overall sauce market.

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