Chio “Chili Challenge”: When Habanero Goes Mainstream

Once upon a time, in the spring of 2018, European chips producer Chio thought to challenge its customers with Habanero chilli.

Even now, a while after, it’s not uninteresting.

Of course, it’s not interesting as an advertisement for their product, which has long been off the market again (having only been produced for a limited time).

It is interesting as a cultural-culinary artifact.

After all, with that Chio Habanero Chili Challenge, habanero had at least made an appearance in the snack foods aisle of ordinary Central European supermarkets. Looks like awareness of habanero is spreading.

On the other hand, this appearance was a very typical, superficial one.

At least, that reinforces the view that there are certain misunderstandings of the chilli… And it gives reason to talk about them more.

Chio Tortilla Chips

Fundamental (Mis)Understandings

Let’s get more concrete, then:

The habaneros do certainly include peppers with interesting, unusual aromas and, often enough, extra-high pungency.

Quite often, habanero is used as a synonym for Capsicum chinense, but the chinense species includes more pod types than just the various habanero.

As far as chilli is known in public, habanero is often taken to mean extra-high pungency. That is often the case, but by far not always.

Looking at the Chio chips with habanero, there was at least some habanero to be found among the ingredients, if only as one of the peppers. Unsurprisingly, the chips were of higher pungency than usual, but did not have a noticeable aroma of habanero.

I rather liked them that way, most people didn’t care or notice.

Hot? How, Hot?

As usual, chileheads for whom habanero meant extra-hot did notice and had to complain that the chips were not all that hot.

Chio had coaxed people into such complaints, given how hard they pressed the “challenge,” pushed the “Only for 18+ [year olds]” in their marketing… But, putting the focus there of course made things particularly difficult, having to make the product somewhat challenging while leaving the chips edible to a normal person. Quick as people nowadays might be in claiming damages, especially.

The chips were pretty nice, if not the great challenge – which was even pushed with “influencers,” apparently.

Why So Hesitant?

Having at least had the cojones to try something new, more pungent, at least as a short-term special edition, is something I can only commend Chio for, nonetheless.

Most snack foods producers in Europe (certainly here in Germany and Austria) still hardly dare to experiment with anything along the lines of hot, let alone hotter, flavors.

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