Ethnic connoisseurs in US seeking exotic flavors

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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CHICAGO – Lesser-known ethnic fare has enjoyed robust product growth in recent years because ethnic-food lovers have been seeking out more exotic ingredients and flavors, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD). For 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. "Thai" products launches saw a 68% increase from 2009-2010.

"Italian, Mexican and Asian cuisine are the more mainstream, popular ethnic cuisines," says 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."

These product launch increases 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 programs, 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 travelling 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," Lockwood said. "Cooking programs, culinary magazines and recipe websites are an easy way to get more comfortable with ethnic food preparation."
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