Authenticity is the most important attribute for consumers who eat ethnic foods, as greater availability has led to stronger demand for ‘the real thing’, according to new research from Mintel.
The market research organization said that consumption and preparation of ethnic foods is continuing to increase in popularity, with Middle Eastern and Mediterranean foods seeing particularly strong growth over the past year, including pre-packaged hummus, Greek-style yogurt, and chickpea, tabbouleh and orzo salads.
"This interest in genuine ethnic fare aligns with a broader consumer trend, ‘The Real Thing,’ where we see consumers continually set a higher bar for what they consider authentic,”said Alexandra Smith, director of consumer trends at Mintel.“Today's American has much greater exposure to diverse cultures than an American 20 years ago. And as once-exotic things like sushi or yoga become mainstream, we seek new, more niche markers of cultural authenticity."
Mintel found that of consumers who ate ethnic foods at home, two-thirds said authentic, traditional flavors were the most important attribute. Other top factors influencing purchase decisions were naturalness (49%), premium/gourmet or artisanal (49%), and reduced fat (48%) claims.
Echoing its earlier findings, some cuisines that were once considered ‘ethnic’ have passed into the mainstream as they have become more common in the United States, including Italian and Mexican foods. Seven in ten respondents said they had prepared Italian food at home in the past 30 days, while 63% said they had prepared Mexican food, and 46% had made a Chinese meal.
According to this latest survey, 81% of respondents had eaten ethnic food away from home in the month before their participation, up six percentage points from 2010.
Last year, the market researcher said that the major drivers for more exotic flavors in the home included growing interest in television cookery shows, access to media featuring foods that were popular in other countries, ethnically diverse populations within the United States, and ethnically diverse neighborhoods where different cuisines were readily available.