Food developers constantly search the globe for the latest trends in ethnic tastes. A hot spot of new product development continues to be the ethnic foods category of the prepared foods market. According to Laurie Demeritt, president and chief operating officer of the Hartman Groups (Bellevue, Wash.), the appeal and resulting trend for ethnic foods stems from our desire to experiment with and explore new foods. “When people are attracted to ethnic foods, they make quality attributions on these products, and the products have a higher value due to their more 'authentic' and handmade quality,” explains Demeritt. Ethnic foods also are part of what is called a 'fusion culture,' fueled by our deepest emotions to try these foods in order to feel part of the culture. Through consumer preference research at the Hartman Groups, she also has found ethnic foods often are thought of as health and wellness or gourmet products: even though they may be higher in fat and sugar, they are perceived to be made of real ingredients.
A leader in creating the building blocks needed to develop ethnic foods is Symrise Savory Business, North America (Teterboro, N.J.). The company has identified and created the latest trends in ethnic tastes. “These seasonings and flavors help add that touch of 'authenticity' to foods that we crave, and add variety to the menu to satisfy our need for diversity and exploration,” says Kathleen Doran, business development manager for the savory division of Symrise.
Packaged Facts projects retail sales growth for Asian foods will increase from a total of $855.5 million in 2003 to $953.7 million in 2008. According to MarketResearch.com, this may be a conservative estimate when taking into account the rising Asian population in the U.S., and suggests the real market could exceed $1 billion. The Asian category of ethnic flavors includes many Asian countries, and features flavors such as coconut, lemongrass, sesame, soy and teriyaki. Symrise has created seasonings in this category such as Five Spice, Oyster Sauce and Wasabi Seasoning.
While Indian food has been touted for several years as the next up and coming ethnic cuisine to become popular in the U.S., this has not yet come to pass. However, according to the report, “U.S. Market for Emerging Ethnic Foods,” by MarketResearch.com, it still holds promise.
Other ethnic food markets gaining momentum are Mediterranean (beyond Italian cuisine) and foods from the Caribbean. Symrise offers Indian, Caribbean and Deep South seasonings to meet these impending demands. As our melting pot continues to stir in new flavors from around the world, Americans will be assured of an ever-expanding menu of diverse foods to satisfy our needs for exploration, emotional connection, and health and wellness from our foods.