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Asian Aspirations: Modern Asian Supermarkets Aim for Younger Shoppers

Some segments of the ethnic supermarket channel are ready for prime time. Gone are the cracked linoleum floors, bewildering signs and outdated service cases. The newest Asian formats opening their doors favor wood tones, broom-finished concrete floors, recycled materials and English-only signage.

“Consumers identifying with an Asian ethnicity spend 9.1% more on food eaten at home,” stated IBISWorld researchers in a report on the outlook for ethnic food retailers.

Among the newcomers are Hmart Fresh, a perishables-oriented format opened in northern New Jersey by the Korean chain H Mart; Assi Natural Market, a prototype in Irvine, Calif., operated by Assi Super; and Nations Fresh Foods, introduced late last year in Canada by Oceans Fresh Food Market.

With no single ethnic food retailer dominating the U.S., the race is on to capture new markets where second- and third-generation shoppers are more likely to patronize chains like Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s.

“It is everything that H Mart is,” wrote Kennington C. in his shopper review of Assi Natural Market, published on Yelp, “but more centered to a modern feel with comforts that we recognize from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.”

According to IBISWorld, revenue at the nation’s ethnic supermarkets has been growing an average of 2.1% to $26 billion. As the Asian and Hispanic populations increase, and more mainstream consumers seek authentic flavors, annual sales are expected to accelerate an average of 3.7% to $31.2 billion by 2016.           

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