It’s The Little Things. Literally.

Now that I’ve drawn you in with my decidedly non-SEO-ified title…

comparing chili pepper info grahics

Above (click the image to embiggen, the image that is. I’m not selling anything here.) please find one info graphic comparison of salsa hotness. See those little chili peppers? They’re telling you something.

We are a two-salsa household. My wife prefers Hot salsa and my daughter and I prefer Medium. We shop at Trader Joe’s (TJs) a lot so it’s easy to grab a jar of Trader Joe’s® Double Roasted Salsa (Medium) and a jar of Trader José’s Hot Chipotle Salsa (Hot, as the name suggests).

Above, the Meduim is on the left and the Hot is on the right. Now, I realise that the graphics used to indicate hotness on each jar are “for illustrative purposes only.” But taking a closer look, as I was wont to do during dinner tonight, you notice that each graphic uses a different scale by which to measure calienteness.

Medium uses 0-7 while Hot uses 0-11. From a scale perspective, their spiciness becomes virtually the same. By taste however, they are not the same. At all. ¡Ai yi yi!

Label Design

While these salsas are not made by TJs, they are made for TJs. As such, and as evidenced by the labels here, TJs has control over how the labels are designed.

Here is an opportunity. You have a category of product (salsa) with different varieties. There is a single identifying characteristic about salsa in which everyone is interested. You have an easily identifiable icon with which to indicate said characteristic.

Why not use a standard graphic?

I am not an aficionado of salsa (or chili peppers), but would the Scoville Scale provide a reference in this case?

Supporting the Decision Making Process

Yes, yes. I am “going off” on salsa label design. But think about all the salsa you’ve ever bought. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Sometimes you’ll get a Medium and it will burn your tongue off. Other times you go for a Hot and get barely a tingle. It isn’t enough to say Mild, Medium, or Hot (I’m looking at you Indian restaurants!).

That might be enough to get the consumer to the right class of salsa, but if there was a 0-12 scale and the graphic neatly identified a Medium as a 6 (compared to a Medium 5 or 7 let’s say) you’d have a better understanding of just how spicy that fancy-pants Corn Pepper Black Bean Relish Salsa was going to be.

There’s a lot going on in a grocery store. Particularly TJs on a Saturday. Designing your labels to support decision making can help your customer. It would ensure your customers are getting exactly what they want. It could also get your customer to branch out a little and buy 2 different Mediums instead of one. “Matthew! Increase sales, you say? ¡Ai yi yi!”

¡Ai yi yi! indeed.


  1. Matt Robin says:

    I was impressed that they seem to have included a scale range (0-7 or 0-11) …but is it a bit too intricate?

    Matthew, you’d laugh at the food-labelling over here by comparison: one red chilli for ‘not that spicy’, two red chillies for ‘mild’, and three red chillies for ‘OMG, that’s hot!!’ So, we’ve got just three grades of spicy…much easier to choose, yes, but perhaps a bit too vague as well!

    Maybe they could use a picture of how hot and bothered someone feels from eating the item….’weak’ = barely breaking a sweat, ‘Mild’ = redness in the cheeks and reaching for a drink, ‘Hot’ = sweat rolling down face, tongue ON FIRE and steam coming out of the ears! :D

  2. This article gave me a chuckle! Nobody can claim that us designers are not attentive to detail that is for sure. To further your point, I found it interesting that the level of “calienteness” on the second bottle is halfway between the measurement lines. I guess I wasn’t aware that anyone was that much of a salsa connoisseur that they could actually measure with that degree of perfection. I stand corrected.

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