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    Asian Cuisine Leads the Pack for 2005: Study

    NEW YORK CITY -- A growing Asian-American population and increasingly sophisticated American palates have driven the growth of Asian foods, and -- as an increasing variety of these items become available in local supermarkets -- are influencing what consumers eat at home, according to a new study from market research firm Packaged Facts, "The U.S. Market for Asian Foods and Beverages."

    NEW YORK CITY -- A growing Asian-American population and increasingly sophisticated American palates have driven the growth of Asian foods, and -- as an increasing variety of these items become available in local supermarkets -- are influencing what consumers eat at home, according to a new study from market research firm Packaged Facts, "The U.S. Market for Asian Foods and Beverages."

    Total U.S. retail sales of Asian foods increased by 27.3 percent from 2000 through 2004, according to the study. While the Pan-Asian trend of blending diverse Asian cuisines to create new tastes is still popular, there is also an increased focus on distinct authentic flavors and regional cuisines, according to the research.

    As independent Chinese restaurants reach a whopping 41,000 in number, there is also an increase in Asian chain restaurants, such as P.F. Chang's and Panda Express. It is also not unusual to see Asian foods on non-Asian restaurant menus.

    These three trends mean that today's consumer is much more exposed to Asian foods, and will lead to greater consumption of the cuisine at home as consumers become more comfortable with Asian food ingredients. This is especially true when considered in tandem with the increasing availability of Asian food products in supermarkets, said Packaged Facts. For example, sushi, a specialty food not so long ago, is now available in most supermarkets.

    A number of Asian items from different countries of origin have potential for mainstream appeal, said the study, including tempura, Southeast Asian satay, Vietnamese sandwiches (banh mi), curry, "everything-but-the-chicken" mandarin chicken salad kits, Thai iced tea, and Bubble tea kits. Cutting-edge restaurants are creating hybrid dishes by blending elements of Thai, Vietnamese, and other Southeastern Asian cuisines with more-familiar Chinese and Japanese elements. These trends affect restaurant offerings and eventually supermarket offerings in Asian rice mixes and frozen entrees and appetizers.

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