Ethnic Food is Hot, Hot, Hot

October 20, 2009
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A new report from Mintel International Group, Chicago, says U.S. sales of ethnic foods are expected to reach a record-high $2.2 billion this year, and expand another 20 percent between 2010 and 2014.

 A new report from Mintel International Group, Chicago, says U.S. sales of ethnic foods are expected to reach a record-high $2.2 billion this year. And thanks to a steady stream of foreigners into the United States., the company predicts sales will expand another 20 percent between 2010 and 2014.

"Since 2005, over a million foreigners became legal, permanent residents of the U.S. each year,” reported David Browne, senior analyst. “This escalating group is influencing the American palate and piquing Americans' interest in new cuisines."

With nearly two-thirds of total sales, Mexican/Hispanic foods represent the largest portion of the ethnic foods market, Mintel reported, noting that Mexican food has become so mainstream, it's hardly considered ethnic anymore. However, the Asian and Indian segments are driving ethnic food growth, posting 11 percent and 35 percent gains, respectively, between 2006 and 2008.

In addition to an increasingly diverse population, a recent resurgence in cooking and eating at home is helping to boost sales of ethnic foods.

"Due to the economic downturn, the growing popularity of cooking shows and a rise in international travel, more Americans are classifying themselves as 'cooking enthusiasts,'" the report said, citing the increased availability of ethnic sauces and seasonings designed to aid home cooks in the preparation of ethnic fare.

According to Mintel, income and age are two of the strongest predictors of ethnic food cooking. More than 92 percent of consumers with household incomes in excess of $150,000 annually said they cooked ethnic food in the past month, while 91 percent of consumers between the ages of 18 and 24 said they cooked ethnic food during the same period.

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