When the economy bottomed out last year, we saw a lot of folks rushing to develop additional comfort foods  like pot pies and decadent mac and cheese. However, over the past few months, I’ve been watching a new trend in the store brands category sprout: The rise, once again, of ethnic foods.
The interest in foreign flavors and textures roams the world, but right now the most attention is being paid to Asian meal solutions, primarily Indian  and Thai . There are frozen meals for an authentic nosh; simmer sauces for the speed scratch cook — you know, those who want to say they made it themselves, but don’t have the time or know-how to truly execute a dish from scratch; canned exotic fruits, vegetables and condiments to be used by the stalwart home cooks who insist on creating a version of their restaurant favorites; even authentic pantry staples, such as basmati and jasmine rice, couscous, quinoa and other assorted grains.
It wasn’t easy to find such food items, and sales were pretty much limited to small, neighborhood ethnic markets or natural food retailers like Whole Foods  and Trader Joe’s . Lucky for average consumers of all stripes, the horizon is broadening to include club stores, traditional supermarkets, convenience stores, drug stores and even deep discounters.
It would not come as a surprise to see a myriad of new suppliers in the ethnic arena at this year’s PLMA show  in November.
The trend isn’t limited to interesting, authentic products, either. There are unique packaging concepts as well. Chinese take-out boxes hold ethnic noodle and rice dishes; microwaveable bowls are the ideal receptacle for Asian noodles and soups; complete meal kits in a box that require little to no effort to prepare at home; and retort pouches in a beautiful display box containing Indian and Thai dishes which make you feel as if you’re on an exotic culinary journey.
These authentic products give a whole new meaning to the term “comfort food.” It’s also nice to know that a new generation of private label ethnic foods is allowing us to feel at home anywhere in the world.
(Photo credit: Mr. T in DC)