- A third of people eat ethnic food at least once a week and 32% are willing to pay extra for authentic ethnic fare, according to a study.
- Technomic’s 2018 Ethnic Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report noted consumers want to be informed about ethnic options to determine if the foods are authentic, although the meaning of authentic varies from person to person. The definition can be influenced by whether the person is a native chef or cook, the type of imported ingredients used or the bold flavors that are prevalent.
- The study says food companies would do well to be transparent upfront in order to gain customer trust. Among the 87% of consumers who order ethnic fare or food with ethnic flavors: 44% always prefer completely authentic fare, while 23% say their preference changes based on the cuisine, and 36% like to explore regional varieties of mainstream ethnic cuisines to try new foods and flavors.
Food trends popular in 2018 are preferences for both authenticity and transparency in menu items, and a taste for ethnic fare.
Asian and Middle Eastern flavors have struck a chord with consumers who are seeking new and intriguing items beyond the well-known standbys such as sushi, tempura, hummus, tahini and yogurt. Spicy flavors do well in the U.S., and many shoppers are exploring beyond basic hot sauces as food makers highlight more authentic, ethnic flavors. Changing demographics are behind some of this trend, particularly as the purchasing power of the millennial demographic increases and companies target growing Hispanic and Asian populations. But millennials also are very interested in ethnic cuisine.
“Everyone’s definition of authentic is different, so when it comes to ethnic fare, it’s vital to clarify the flavor profile and ingredients upfront so consumers aren’t surprised or disappointed in their order,” said Kelly Weikel, director of consumer insights at Technomic, in a written release. “Additionally, ethnic options must feel accessible rather than intimidating, and this can be achieved through providing flavor and sourcing information about each ethnic dish.”
In the U.S., grocers have caught on to these trends, and are offering prepared foods featuring Hispanic, Asian and other global cuisines. Wegmans offers a “Tastes of Mexico” line with selections like chicken mole with Mexi-kale salad. Eataly, the grocer that carries Italian specialties and foodservice stations, has popped up in major cities as well.
Food companies might do well to consider Frontera, the Mexican food company Conagra acquired two years ago. Not only did Conagra choose a fast-growing company with a passionate fan base in Chicago, but by aligning with Mexican maker, the food company latched onto a rapidly expanding Hispanic population in the U.S. and catered to consumers' desire for these flavors.
Conagra, owner of Healthy Choice and Marie Callender's, is going to great lengths to keep the company authentic. Co-founders JeanMarie Brownson and Rick Bayless traveled recently to Mexico where they found ingredients and flavors to use in packaged sauces, meals and snacks, Food Business News reports. Conagra created Frontera Especial Tequila Borracha Salsa, an authentic food made with black garlic and chipotle.
The company also is focusing on creating tasty frozen foods, Bayless said, in an effort to capture a growing market segment. Smartly, the company is not trying to Americanize Mexican food, recognizing that customers are looking for real flavors.
The success Frontera, among other brands, show customers will flock to ethnic foods made from premium ingredients that feature authentic flavors. And the survey shows they are willing to pay more for those experiences. That suggests companies looking to get into this segment should not skimp on ingredients or try to pass off just anything as authentic, but rather take the time to offer the real deal — and then share that story with consumers.