NEW YORK, NY (CBS) -- America's fastest-growing industries produce things like solar panels and generic drugs and also, would you believe, hot sauce! Sales have spiked 150 percent in the past ten years.
Blair Lazar says, "You're talking about the most potent, powerful, intense ingredients on planet Earth."
On the floor of this Baltimore factory, Blair Lazar brews a sweat-inducing, mouth-melting concoction of chili peppers: Blair's Death Sauce.
Lazar first served hot sauce in 1989 as a young bartender trying to force lingering customers to leave at closing time. Today, he can't keep them away. He says, "It's a way to suddenly feel different. Everything's suddenly a little bit brighter, maybe a lot brighter."
Lazar's after-hours experiment has morphed into a multi-million dollar enterprise in part fueled by exports. Forty percent of the bottles made by market leader Tabasco are sent overseas. For Lazar, it's 75 percent.
Here at home, there's also the changing nature of American cuisine as immigrants from Asia and Latin America, introducing more of the culture to "capsaicin." Lazar says, "I was interested in why people would eat something that tasted so bad. It's, it's sort of like your mouth is gonna peel off when you eat it."
Capsaicin is the source of heat in all chili peppers, and University of Pennsylvania professor Paul Rozin has done the definitive work on why more than half the population craves it. If people aren't innately programmed to like it, if babies don't like it, if animals hate it, why do some of us love it? Rozin says, "Well, there's a transformation that occurs. It occurs between ages about four and six, that kids start liking hot food. I call it benign masochism. It's like mind over body."
The heat of a dish is measured on something called the Scoville scale. At the top, 16 million units, is pure capsaicin. Pepper spray used by police measures 2 million. And while original Tabasco is 5,000 units, Lazar's ultra death sauce, featuring habanero, reaches around a million.
Despite the initial shock, lazar still believes there are plenty of palettes left ready to adopt his uniquely devilish view on dining.