CHICAGO — Ethnic food sales have climbed steadily since 2004 and are on track to reach a record high of $2.2 billion in 2009, according to Mintel.
In addition, Mintel forecasts solid growth of nearly 20% from 2010-14. Mexican/Hispanic foods represent the largest segment of the ethnic food market with nearly two-thirds (62%) of sales. Mexican food has become so mainstream, it is hardly considered ethnic anymore, according to Mintel. Nearly six in 10 respondents say they have cooked Mexican food in the past month.
The Asian and Indian food segments are driving the market's growth, with 11% and 35% growth, respectively, from 2006-08.
"Since 2005, there are over 1 million foreigners becoming legal permanent residents in the U.S. each year," notes David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel. "This escalating group is influencing the American palate and piquing Americans' interest in new cuisines."
According to Mintel, income is one of the strongest predictors of ethnic food cooking. Ninety-two percent of respondents with household incomes of more than $150,000 have cooked ethnic food in the past month. Young adults are also among the most adventurous when it comes to global cuisines. Some 91% of respondents aged 18-24 have cooked ethnic food in the same timeframe.
A resurgence in cooking and product innovation are helping to drive sales. 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” and are having fun with cooking and experimenting with new flavors and foods.
Two-thirds of respondents prefer to cook their ethnic meals “from scratch,” while the remaining third of consumers prefer ethnic foods that require less time and preparation, therefore opting for meal solutions or heat-and-serve meals.
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