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Ethnic trend adds spice to US palate

By Sarah Hills , 02-Oct-2008

The Hispanic and Asian influence on the US food and beverage market is growing stronger as ethnic flavors become mainstream and the spending power of these cultural groups increases, according to an industry expert.

Asians and Hispanics are no longer a minority in large cities across the US and census figures predict that they will form a majority by 2050, according to John Corella, spokesman for the Expo Comida Latina and All Asia Food industry event which will take place this month.

The result is more food and drinks specifically targeting these groups, as well as capturing a wider market of consumers who enjoy their culinary influence.

Corella said: “There are a lot of products coming out that are uniquely flavored to address the cultural shift.

“The US is becoming spicier”

He gave the example of lime flavored products with chili, which is typically Hispanic. There are also more fresh and frozen vegetables of Asian origin and the ingredients used in products can also target certain markets.

Corella said that Coca-Cola sells a different version of Coke in Mexico than it does in the US which does not contain high fructose corn syrup. This is because the Mexican palate is used to traditional sugar. So in some areas of North American you can find regular Coke alongside the Mexican variety on shop shelves.

He added: “There is also the need to address certain cultural limitations such as lactose intolerance. Mexican populations and native Americans have higher incidence of lactose intolerance. There has been a growth in that market place of soy products.”

This also applies to health conditions such as diabetes.

Meanwhile Asian vegetables such as napa cabbage and Asian eggplant are becoming an integral part of the American diet, according to a new report in the American Society for Horticultural Science (ASHS) HortTechnology online journal.

Population growth

The Hispanic influence will become more pronounced with the growth of the US Hispanic contingent, which now numbers more than 44 million and accounts for roughly 15 percent of the total population, according to the market analysts Nielsen. By 2050, Census Bureau projections show Hispanics accounting for one-quarter of the US population, which is a growth rate of almost 70 percent for all Hispanics between 2006 and 2050.

Similarly, there is a rapidly growing US market for Asian food and beverages propelled by the growth of the Asian American population and spurred by a passion for Asian cuisine among all ethnicities.

Asian Americans will represent $670 billion in spending power by 2012 while Hispanics will represent $1.2 trillion in spending power by 2012, according to Selig Center for Economic Growth.

And separate figures from the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, say that ethnic foods account for $1 out of every $7 spent.

The growth is being highlighted by organizers of the Expo Comida Latina and All Asia Food event, which is for retailers, distributors, foodservice, and manufacturers to showcase the newest in Asian and Hispanic food and beverage. It will take place on October 13 and 14 in Los Angeles.

Last year a Packaged Facts report on flavor and ingredient trends predicted that in 2008 Asian and Hispanic flavors would become mainstream. The emerging ethnic cuisines forecast to gain a lot of attention included regional Asian influences, such as Thai. Mexican was expected to move more upscale, and Indian was also predicted to feature strongly.

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