With an expanding ethnic population calling the U.S. home, a new Mintel report shows sales of ethnic foods have climbed steadily since 2004 and are set to reach a record high of $2.2 billion in 2009. In addition, Mintel forecasts solid growth of nearly 20 percent from 2010 to 2014.
Mexican/Hispanic foods represent the largest segment of the ethnic foods market with nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of sales. In fact, Mexican food has become so mainstream it is hardly considered ethnic anymore. Nearly six in 10 respondents say they have cooked Mexican food in the past month. However, the Asian and Indian food segments are driving the market's growth, with 11 percent and 35 percent growth, respectively, from 2006 to 2008.
"Since 2005, there are over one million foreigners becoming legal permanent residents in the U.S. each year," says 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 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 percent of respondents aged 18-24 have cooked ethnic food in the same timeframe.
In addition to the growing diverse population, 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.
"Food manufacturers are answering the call of these new cooking enthusiasts by providing home cooks with ethnic sauces and seasonings to add with their own meat and vegetables or taking it a step further with meal solutions and pre-made meal kits," Browne says.
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.