Asian and Hispanic tastes remain the two biggest drivers in the US ethnic food market, with highest growth observed in the frozen entrée segment, says AC Nielsen.
According to the research firm's Strategic Planner data, performance trends in ethnic goods during the 52 weeks ended November 4 2006 were overall "generally positive".
Total retail sales of Asian foods (excluding Wal-Mart) rose by 4.5 percent to $1.1bn over the past year, while sales of Mexican foods have continued a four year upwards spiral to reach $3.2bn, up 3.5 percent from last year.
Published in AC Nielsen's Facts, Figures and the Future newsletter, the data reveals that the highest percentage growth in the Asian - or 'Oriental' category - occurs in the two-food frozen entrée segment.
On a four-year steamroll that culminated in a 21 percent dollar sales gain to almost $88m, this segment has more than doubled in size since 2002.
It is the same in the Mexican category, where percentage growth of the two-food frozen entrée segment eclipsed all others, increasing some 36 percent to just over $30m over the last year.
"Although a modest part of Asian and Mexican offerings overall, the popularity of frozen ethnic entrées suggests they play a growing role in ethnic, and even non-ethnic, households as convenient packaged foods that make meals easy to assemble and prepare," said AC Nielsen.
The largest contributor to Asian sales continues to be one-food frozen entrees, which edged down by 1.6 percent to $379m in the latest 52 weeks, said the market researcher.
On the Mexican side, tortillas remain the most popular product. Sales rose four straight years and culminated in a 4.3 percent climb to $1bn in the 2006 period. Mexican salsas and sauces ran a close second at $945m, up 2.8 percent from last year.
According to AC Nielsen, Asian and Hispanic populations are the fastest growing US ethnic groups, and constitute the biggest drivers of ethnic food retail sales.
US Census Bureau data reveals that there are currently 14m Asians and 41.3 million Hispanics living in the US. Asians are forecast to account for 8 percent and Hispanics 24 percent of the nation's 394m population by the year 2050.
"That looks to become a windfall for ethnic foods," said AC Nielsen.