Last year, Uproxx’s Vince Mancini went on a little bit of a tear about how harissa is today’s truffle oil. What he meant is that the North African spice paste is suddenly ubiquitous and in danger of being brutally played out. He was exaggerating a little. While there can and will be no forgiveness for how truffle oil was slathered across every single new American menu in the country circa 2009, harissa hasn’t jumped the shark quite yet. (You’ll know when the chef at your local small plates gastropub, with a tattoo of a butchery diagram on his forearm, puts a harissa mac & cheese on the menu).
Truthfully, harissa versus truffle oil isn’t a fair comparison, because harissa is essentially hot sauce. As such, it’s not quite as prone to being labeled a food fad. Just look at Sriracha’s staying power, or Tabasco’s enduring success. By 2017, hot sauce is expected to be a $1.3 billion industry — destroying ketchup’s $800 million earnings. More than half of American households have a bottle of the stuff in their cupboards (though we all know that Beyoncé keeps hers in her purse).
For more than a decade, Sriracha was the darling of the hot sauce craze. Cool kids loved it. The problem? It had lots of sugar. Trendy salad shop Sweetgreen just pulled Sriracha from their menu for this exact reason. Now, ready-made harissa brands are clamoring to ascend the throne. Is the umami boosting paste about to be the next big thing? To dive deeper, we asked Entube creator Richard Lassalle about bringing the heat and how packaging makes all the difference.
When did you first discover harissa?
Harissa was always a big part of my life and with the recent surge in the appreciation of capsicums in the last few years, AKA the humble chili, it seemed to me that it was only a matter of time before the condiment exploded onto the scene. This was confirmed by Time magazines’ article naming Harissa as the 4th biggest food trend in 2015.
My goal was to create a line of products that would inspire everyone to understand that regular food can not only be delicious with the simple addition of an excellent condiment but also very healthy and made with colors that inspire our everyday lives.
How important do you think trends and packaging are in shaping consumer habits?
In my previous business of branded entertainment, I designed music videos and commercials. I realized that, in doing so, I contributed to fashionable changes in popular culture. If in working on a video with Beyoncé or designing a campaign for Nike I designed an environment with a certain wall paper of a color, that style would prevail and before long would find its way into Abercrombie and Fitch, Target, and other fashionable outlets.
I found myself in a position to create trends and that’s exactly what we are doing with Entube. Not only with the flavor profiles but also with the tube. Food in tubes is a huge business in Europe and I’ve always been in love with the idea. I receive dozens of inquiries every week from gourmet food companies interested in getting their products in a tube. We are one of the very few companies doing this in the States and are therefore on the crest of the wave. Case in point, Trader Joe’s has now released a product line in tubes.
It seems like Sriracha really started the trendy condiment movement, do you agree?
Sriracha has had a huge influence yes, but the health aspect is now coming to the fore. There are several brands making a “healthy” Sriracha now, with dozens of variants in mayonnaise, chips, drinks the offshoots are endless.
Are there any other condiment brands that you dig right now?
There are many and it’s growing as I become saturated in the gourmet world. Mother in Law’s KimChi, Stagg Jams, Smack-dab Mustard to name a few. . All of which are relatively new companies driven by people who are extremely passionate about what they do.
Any insight into how the market created this void, providing the opportunity for gourmet condiments to become such a big thing?
It’s a sign of our times that people in the States and Europe are concerned less with survival and more with enriching their lives. Food is a huge part of this. Food and cooking shows on television and social media have also played a huge part in the education of the public to health and sensory pleasure.
Why does this trend matter to people who care about cooking?
Entube provides the consumer with a flavor bomb of relatively hard to find individual ingredients. There’s very few people who have the time or inclination to shop for a gram of Sichuan pepper, which is an extraordinary peppercorn that opens up the taste buds and enables us to discover flavors we’ve never experienced before. We are bringing this all to the consumer is an efficient, squeezable tube.
Beyoncé and Hillary Clinton have famously claimed to carry hot sauce with them everywhere. Do you take the Entube tubes on the go as well?
I travel with them all the time, they are life savers for hotel food, fabulous to flavor up a simple burger or to quickly transform a basic pasta.