Ethnic Tastes Getting More Exotic, Says Mintel

CHICAGO -- Italian, Mexican and Asian cuisines enjoyed the top spots as the most mainstream ethnic foods, but lesser-known ethnic fare is enjoying robust product growth now, too, according to Mintel's Global New Products Database (GNPD).

In 2010 alone, Mintel's GNPD tracked a 150 percent increase from 2009 in new food items that contained "Caribbean" in the product description. "Japanese" product launches soared more than 230 percent from 2009-2010. Meanwhile, "Thai" products launches saw a 68 percent 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 percent of ethnic food-lovers said 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 said they were spurred to try them after reading cookbooks that include recipes for dishes that are popular in other countries. Additionally, 18 percent developed a taste for ethnic chow after travelling abroad and 25 percent said 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," noted David Lockwood. "Cooking programs, culinary magazines and recipe Web sites are an easy way to get more comfortable with ethnic food preparation."


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