Say When: The Timeless Popularity of Black Pepper

“Tell me when to stop.”

It’s one of the last things you hear before digging into a delicious meal outfitted with your desired amount of black pepper – the defining ingredient to kick up the spice of any salad, potatoes, meat, etc. So how does an ingredient like pepper have a place at the table for centuries without losing any favor with flavor-chasers?

Originating as an indigenous spice to the province Kerala in southwest India and working its way up to becoming the luxury trade item of medieval Europe, peppercorns stirred up quite a demand from Italian traders who sold it at a prohibitive cost. It would take the creation of more accessible trade routes to drop the prices and make black pepper more mainstream, accounting for 70% of the international spice trade according to

It seemed that every regional cuisine across the world included some variety of pepper to complement their native spices and complete their dish. And now, hundreds of years later, nothing has changed.

Whether it’s labeled “zesty” or “spicy” or “blackened,” a variety of meals and food products feature this pungent, hot-tasting spice due to its distinct, earthy flavor which can accommodate most palettes without bringing too much heat to a dish. Many consumers don’t even realize the health benefits associated with black pepper.

Packed with antioxidants and nutrients, black pepper has played a starring ingredient role in natural remedies that treat nerve pain and detoxify skin as well as in medicines that are used to cure stomach issues, bronchitis and even cancer. Essentially, the black pepper we know as the chef’s kiss to a delicious Caesar salad is the same black pepper that is typically used as a counterirritant for pain.

So, what keeps pepper on the throne as the King of Spices?

Perhaps it’s the level of comfort that it provides diners. It’s common for consumers to pursue flavor with their meals, and due to its prime tableside setting next to salt, pepper is a convenient, familiar option for flavor enhancement that promises not to add too much heat to the dish. Chefs consider it the go-to choice to add a touch of heat without losing the overall flavor of the dish.

This easy, risk-free option makes sense, but we also must consider the availability of the spice. The high demand for pepper makes it always available at a low cost. The price of black pepper is directly influenced by the processed foods industry. Thanks to its undying popularity, more and more food companies use pepper in their baked products, confectionary products, fried products, etc. This growing, global trend will continue to drive the black pepper market.

Today, black pepper still accounts for 35% of the total world trade in spices according to the Black Pepper Market: Global Industry Analysis and Opportunity Assessment 2016-2026.

With its distinctive taste and sneeze-inducing aroma, pepper is a versatile spice that blends easily into other ingredients and will continue to stimulate the taste buds and whet appetites for generations to come.

At Nikken Foods, we have a few favorite powdered ingredient blends that enhance the flavors of black pepper. Plus, no need to trek treacherous trade routes to try it – just reach out to our team and we’ll help you find the right gourmet blend of spices to perfect your products.

  • 5301 SH Lightly Roasted Soy Sauce Powder is an excellent choice for boosting and intensifying the spice of black pepper. The savory, aged notes complement the woody, piney and pungent flavors of black pepper in a variety of applications like soups, stews and seasonings.
  • 5390 Fermented Rice Extract Powder is allergen free and enhances the umami, woody, and piney notes of black pepper, similarly to the above Soy Sauce Powder, making it perfect for seasoning your snacks, appetizers or dressings.
  • 2170 Shiitake Extract Powder features shiitake mushroom stems and heads which are naturally full of the same taste profiles as black pepper: woody, smoky, earthy and umami. This all-natural ingredient is allergen free and great for driving lingering flavor in your soups, sauces, marinades and dressings.