Ethnic foods become mainstream, reports Mintel

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Italian, Mexican and Asian cuisines have become so mainstream, they’re hardly considered ethnic anymore, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD).

However, the research company also finds lesser-known ethnic fare has enjoyed robust product growth in recent years, as ethnic-food lovers hunt for more exotic ingredients and flavors.

In 2010, Mintel’s GNPD tracked a 150% increase from 2009 in new food items that contained Caribbean in the product description. Japanese product launches soared more than 230% from 2009-2010.  Meanwhile, Thai product launches saw a 68% increase from 2009- 2010.

“Italian, Mexican and Asian cuisine are the more mainstream, popular ethnic cuisines,” said David Lockwood, senior analyst at Mintel. “But Thai, Caribbean and Japanese foods are seeing healthy growth, and consumers seem to be getting more comfortable with a wider variety of ethnic flavors.”

This increase in product launches may be due to the wide variety of outlets consumers have at their disposal to learn more about ethnic foods that aren’t common to their ethnic background. In fact, 26% of ethnic food-lovers say they were introduced to the cuisine by TV programmes, newspapers or magazines that feature cuisine from other countries.

Twenty-three percent of ethnic food users say they were spurred to try them after reading cookbooks that include recipes for dishes that are popular in other countries. Additionally, 18% developed a taste for ethnic chow after traveling abroad and 25% say they were introduced to their favorite ethnic fare because they live in a diverse neighborhood where the food and ingredients are readily available.

“In keeping with Mintel’s ‘professionalization of the amateur’ CPG trend, consumers are becoming more interested in trying out complicated ethnic dishes at home that would usually be prepared by a chef in a restaurant,” said Lockwood. “Cooking programmes, culinary magazines and recipe websites are an easy way to get more comfortable with ethnic food preparation.”