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    Flavor Palates Expanding to the Exotic

    Food lovers reaching beyond ‘mainstream’ ethnic cuisines

    Consumers enjoy Italian, Mexican and Asian cuisine so much that all three have become so mainstream, they’re hardly considered ethnic anymore.

    But according to Mintel’s Global New Products Database, lesser-known ethnic fare has enjoyed robust product growth in recent years, as ethnic-food lovers and their palates are hungry for more exotic ingredients and flavors.

    In 2010 alone, Mintel’s GNPD tracked a 150 percent increase from 2009 in new food items that contained “Caribbean” in the product description. “Japanese” product launches soared more than 230 percent from 2009 to 2010. Meanwhile, “Thai” products launches saw a 68 percent increase from 2009 to 2010.

    “Italian, Mexican and Asian cuisine are the more mainstream, popular ethnic cuisines,” said David Lockwood, senior analyst at Mintel. “But Thai, Caribbean and Japanese foods are seeing healthy growth, and consumers seem to be getting more comfortable with a wider variety of ethnic flavors.”

    This increase in product launches may be due to the wide variety of outlets consumers have at their disposal to learn more about ethnic foods that aren’t common to their ethnic background. In fact, 26 percent of ethnic food lovers say they were introduced to the cuisine by TV programs, newspapers or magazines that feature cuisine from other countries.

    Twenty-three percent of ethnic food users say they were spurred to try them after reading cookbooks that include recipes for dishes that are popular in other countries. Additionally, 18 percent developed a taste for ethnic chow after travelling abroad and 25 percent say they were introduced to their favorite ethnic fare because they live in a diverse neighborhood where the food and ingredients are readily available.

    “In keeping with Mintel’s ‘professionalization of the amateur’ CPG trend, consumers are becoming more interested in trying out complicated ethnic dishes at home that would usually be prepared by a chef in a restaurant,” Lockwood said. “Cooking programs, culinary magazines and recipe websites are an easy way to get more comfortable with ethnic food preparation.”

    Mintel is a leading global supplier of consumer, product and media intelligence, with offices in Chicago, New York, London, Sydney, Shanghai and Tokyo.


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