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    Mexican Items Spicing Up Fast Casual

    Consumers drawn to authentic dining experiences, more flavorful foods

    Limited service Mexican restaurant chains were able to increase sales by 2.7 percent and unit counts by 1.8 percent in 2009, despite an industry-wide contraction of 3.2 percent during the same time period. Several Mexican chains within the Top 500 were able to achieve double-digit sales increases, and the number of Mexican menu items on restaurant menus is up from 2009 to 2010. Technomic’s new “Market Intelligence Report: Mexican” explores the reasons why Mexican food is more popular than ever.

    “The rise in popularity of Mexican food is the culmination of a number of factors all converging in foodservice at this moment,” says Mary Chapman, director of product innovation at Technomic. “The fast casual boom is certainly part of the equation – Mexican concepts fit well into the fast casual model. Consumers are also calling for authentic dining experiences and spicier, more flavorful foods, so Mexican concepts and menu items are on trend in a number of ways right now.”

    Among the report's most interesting findings:

    • The number of Mexican entrees on U.S. restaurant menus was up 3.3 percent from the first half of 2009 to the first half of 2010, with 5.4 percent more restaurant chains offering Mexican menu items over that time period.
     
    • While chicken and beef are still the most prevalent ingredients in tacos, the number of fish tacos on restaurant menus was up an impressive 22.5 percent in the first half of 2010.

    • Consumers have begun to respond to regional preparations of Mexican items, much like Tuscan or Sicilian within the Italian category and Sichuan varieties of Chinese food.

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