Ethnic Foods - US - January 2013
“When it comes to ethnic food eaten and prepared at home, restaurants continue to pose a threat because of constant innovation that attracts consumers. In order to remain competitive, companies need to focus on product development that blends authenticity with familiarity, while offering unique flavor combinations. Additionally, providing consumers with the ability to customize their dish and emphasizing functional benefits also could prove to be lucrative strategies.”
– Carla Dobre-Chastain, Food Analyst
Some questions answered in this report include:
- How can ethnic food manufacturers better cater to households with kids?
- How can manufacturers encourage greater consumption of ethnic food at home?
The ethnic food category stands at an estimated $8.7 billion in 2012 after a strong performance seen during and after the U.S. recession. While the category showed a 12% increase in dollar sales from 2007-09, the trend softened a bit, with only 4.5% growth from 2010-12. While consumers were cooking at home more during the recession, a relatively more stable economic environment means many have returned to restaurant eating, when it comes to ethnic food.
However, expected food price increases for 2013 may influence more consumers to again cook at home more. Indeed, the ethnic food category is expected to grow by 20.3% from 2012-17; however, much is dependent on product innovation that meets consumers’ needs. Therefore, companies need to consider better leveraging the diverse U.S. demographic profile, where multicultural groups are growing at a faster rate than the total population; additionally, striking a balance between authenticity and familiarity by expanding offerings into less-known cuisines is a strategy likely to appeal to an increased consumer interest in unique and traditional flavors.
The very definition of the ethnic food market is a gray area in the food industry. While supermarkets traditionally merchandise ethnic food in “international” aisles, additional products throughout stores often have either ethnic/cultural origins outside of the U.S. (e.g., green tea, tortillas), or are based loosely on ethnic food products (e.g., wasabi, teriyaki-flavored salad dressing). These additional items may be considered ethnic by some in the food industry, but not by others.
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