News about Ethnic Food Lovers

An interesting press release arrived this morning from Mintel, a company that tracks what we eat. 

  Chicago (February 16, 2011)—Consumers love tickling their taste buds with Italian, Mexican and Asian cuisine, so much that all three have become so mainstream, they’re hardly considered ethnic anymore. However, according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), lesser-known ethnic fare has enjoyed robust product growth in recent years, as ethnic-food lovers and their palates are hungry for more exotic ingredients and flavors.

            In 2010 alone, 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” 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.”

            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 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.

            SO- where/how do you learn about different ethnic cuisines? Have you eaten Thai, Japanese or Caribbean recently? Where?  Tried any new ethnic cuisines in 2010?

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “News about Ethnic Food Lovers

  1. K.

    What’s “Asian” as mainstream in that first paragraph supposed to represent if they immediately then talk about the rise of interest in Thai & Japanese products as lesser-known ethnic tastes?

  2. When the press release states that Italian, Mexican, and Asian cuisines are *becoming* mainstream, my mind boggled a bit. I wondered, if you took away those three, and everything more exotic, what’s left? Hamburgers and steaks? Macaroni and cheese? Even pizza is technically Italian.

    But I guess “product launches” means things with barcodes. Not, as Michael Pollan puts it, things my great-grandparents would have recognized as food. Would an Italian born in 1900 have recognized the bagged heat-and-eat fettucine alfredo in my grocery’s freezer case?

    • you make a great point. Italian and Mexican food certainly are so common and accepted that its hard to remember that they weren’t always part of how America eats. And while I think it more accurate to say Chinese food , rather than the more general Asian, is mainstream I don’t believe as many people include it in their regular meals. as the other two. i discovered a newspaper article from the 1950s that felt it necessary to define spaghetti for its readers!
      thanks for your comments.

      • And I think it’s even more accurate to say Americanized Chinese food. I think we are finally at an interesting point in history as those of us not living in Chinese hotspots like New York City, Chicago, or San Francisco are finally getting the ability to sample the varieties and flavors of what Chinese people actually eat, not what they think that Americans will like (General Tso’s Chicken … I’m looking at you!).

        I don’t begrudge a Chinese restaurant from having these Americanized dishes as it is what 80% of their patrons probably expect, but now I find that if I ask the right questions or order from the right menu or throw out a carefully timed word of Mandarin to indicate that I’m really serious, I can have something that really does stretch my palate and teach me about other cuisines.

  3. You’re so right Tom. Another excellent technique for getting something more authentic and less familiar is to visit those frequented by Chinese people, point to their table, and say you’ll hvae whatever they’re having!

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