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Fast-food chains opt for designer heat

Ghost peppers may be coming to your market’s Wendy’s or Taco Bell stores.

GrubGrade.com reported Thursday that Ghost Pepper Fries—French fries topped with cheese and pieces of the fiery peppers—are being tested in Wendy’s units in Michigan. The experiment was noted by Janney Capital Markets analyst Mark Kalinowski, who added that Taco Bell is trying a ghost pepper sauce in Cincinnati.

The Ghost Pepper Fries are priced at $2.89 an order, and are available as an alternative to any fries in a combo meal for an additional 50 cents.

Ghost peppers were relatively unknown outside of Indian food and high-end kitchens until a few years ago. Originating from the Asian Subcontinent, they are reputed to be among the hottest peppers on earth.

Wendy’s spiced fries are an accompaniment to another item being tested in Michigan, a Jalapeno Fresco Spicy Chicken Sandwich.

It’s not the only chain kicking up the spice in its chicken. Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen is promoting a new Red Stick Chicken, named after the red stick that Tabasco pepper growers use to gauge when their produce is ripe. The tenders are marinated in Tabasco and served with a ranch dipping sauce, promising the fire of Buffalo wings without the food cost.

Technomic noted at last month’s Restaurant Leadership Conference that a majority of consumers are now voicing a preference for spicy food. It was the first time in the company’s history that a majority of consumers favor spiciness, said executive vice president Darren Tristano. “It will be a really important part of menu innovation for many years to come,” he said.

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