Technomic Explores Sustained Popularity of Mexican Cuisine

December 9/Chicago/Food & Beverage Close-Up -- Technomic's new "Market Intelligence Report: Mexican" explores the reasons why Mexican food is more popular than ever.

Limited-service Mexican restaurant chains were able to increase sales by 2.7% and unit counts by 1.8% in 2009, despite an overall industry-wide contraction of 3.2% during the same time period. The company reported that several Mexican chains within the top 500 were able to achieve double-digit sales increases, and the number of Mexican menu items on restaurant menus is up from 2009 to 2010.

"The rise in popularity of Mexican food is the culmination of a number of factors all converging in foodservice at this moment," says Mary Chapman, director of Product Innovation at Technomic. "The fast casual boom is certainly part of the equation; Mexican concepts fit well into the fast casual model. Consumers are also calling for authentic ethnic dining experiences and spicier, more flavorful foods, so Mexican concepts and menu items are on trend in a number of ways right now."

Technomics noted that interesting report findings include:
- The number of Mexican entrees on U.S. restaurant menus was up 3.3% from the first half of 2009 to the first half of 2010, with 5.4% more restaurant chains offering Mexican menu items over that time period.
- While chicken and beef are still the most prevalent ingredients in tacos, the number of fish tacos on restaurant menus was up 22.5% from the first half of 2009 to the first half of 2010.
-Consumers have begun to respond to regional preparations of Mexican items, much like Tuscan or Sicilian within the Italian category or Cantonese and Sichuan varieties of Chinese food.

From the December 20, 2010, Prepared Foods E-dition