CHICAGO – Mediterranean foods are becoming more visible on US restaurant menus within numerous segments because operators can position these items in ethnic cuisines, better-for-you fare as well as vegetarian foods, according to Chicago-based Technomic.

“Mediterranean cuisine certainly seems poised for continued growth. The increase in menu incidence we have tracked at Technomic shows that these items are not just being added to Mediterranean concepts, but to the menus of national chains within virtually all segments and categories,” said Mary Chapman, director. “We expect this to continue as awareness of the cuisine increases and as the trends feeding the growth continue to develop.”

Technomic has published is Mediterranean Market Intelligence Report. Findings include:

  • Mediterranean food is becoming more popular. Six in 10 consumers recently surveyed by Technomic indicate they would likely order a menu item featuring flavors and ingredients typically associated with Mediterranean cuisine.
  • Mediterranean chain sales — including Greek, Spanish and Middle Eastern specialists — grew to $362 million in 2010, a 1.7 percent increase over 2009. In the area of unit growth, leading Mediterranean chains closed out 2010 with a total of 430 units, up from 423 the prior year. Mediterranean restaurants on a chain level are not widely represented. Combined with consumers’ willingness to order Mediterranean food, this indicates an opportunity for emerging concepts – many of which are profiled in this report.
  • Pita sandwiches and Greek entrée salads have seen healthy increases in menu incidence, and operators are also using more falafel, hummus, chickpeas and Greek yogurt, which indicates a potential trend.
  • Mediterranean cuisine heavily incorporates fish, herbs, vegetables and olive oil — all ingredients that a majority of consumers consider to be healthy. Consumers seeking better-for-you fare also appreciate the cuisine’s simple preparations, use of fresh ingredients and cooking methods that instill flavor without adding fats.