You may have noticed an increase in the number of spicy sauces that line supermarket shelves. Why so hot? According to the Boston Globe, conventional wisdom dictates that immigration and prosperity have made Americans more sophisticated eaters, pushing wasabi peas into the mainstream, along with chili-Thai lime cashews, cayenne chocolate bars and other highoctane combinations.
But the paper says some food scientists think there is a more surprising reason for the broad nationwide shift toward bolder flavors: As baby boomers age, they are losing their ability to taste -- and turning to spicier, higher-flavor foods to overcome their dulled senses.
Because of degenerating olfactory nerves, most aging people have a diminished sense of taste, whether they realize it or not. But unlike previous generations, the Globe reports that boomers have broad appetites, a full set of teeth and the spending power to shape the entire food market.
"There's no question that as the baby boomers are aging they're losing their taste buds, and as a result they're drawn not only to more spicy foods, but to more flavorful foods of all kinds," Phil Lempert, a food market analyst who runs SupermarketGuru.com, is quoted as saying. "So we're seeing sweet things be even more intense in their sweetness. And look at sales of salsa. First the big seller was mild, then medium, and now hot and that really correlates with the population boom."