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1.4 Trends in US Ethnic Foods Market
While there is a difference between specialty and ethnic foods in that the latter tends to be low in price and high in quantity, there is definite overlap between the two. Therefore, specialty foods producers can take note of a number of developments in the ethnic food industry in the US.
The ethnic market is defined by four segments: (i) Mexican/Hispanic foods, (ii) Asian foods, (iii) Indian foods and (iv) Other foods, which include Cajun/Creole, Caribbean, Middle Eastern/Mediterranean, Hawaiian and Eastern European. The ethnic market reached $2.5 billion in 2010 and continues a growth that started before-and persevered during-the economic recession.
Mexican/Hispanic foods remain the largest segment of the market, with 62% of sales, but growth slowed in the past year, trend expected to continue through 2015. Asian and Indian foods continue to drive the market's growth: Asian foods account for 29% of the market's total sales. The Indian food segment has nearly doubled in size since 2005, and is expected to move toward more solid growth. Though it showed flat sales, the "Other" segment is expected to have a period of slight growth in 2010-2015.
Some specific trends within ethnic foods include:
- Asian foods remain the most prolific segment, with more than 1,000 new products launched in the U.S. between January 2006 and mid- December 2010. Convenience and health were key to claims in the overall Asian segment in 2010: "microwaveable" was at the top,
followed by "no additives/preservatives," "all- natural," "ease of use" and "time/speed."
- Sauces and seasonings have the most new releases in Mexican/Hispanic foods, and claims of "premium" have risen 144% in new products, as tracked by Mintel's GNPD (Global New Products Database). Nearly 700 new products hit the Indian food segment, with "organic" as the leading claim. In the "Other" segment, sauces and seasonings represent 20% of new products.
Ethnic sauces, condiments and/or seasonings are present in 64% of US households (down from 69% in July 2009); higher rates are seen in the West due to greater Asian and Hispanic populations. Areas with lower exposure to ethnic populations may respond better to advertisements introducing the flexibility of ethnic products and their adaptability into a more traditional diet.
According to the NASFT State of the Specialty Food Industry, an increase in foreign and national travel; more attention given to food on television and in magazines; a greater concern with integrity of the food supply, which leads consumers to seek out foods that they may perceive as more healthful; and the growing availability of specialty or fancy foods through diverse channels, from gourmet food stores to the Internet to supermarkets and local restaurants that sell their own signature lines of food, have all contributed to the booming sales of specialty and ethnic foods.