Interest in Ethnic Cuisine

February 21/New York/States News Service -- Americans are broadening their tastes to include a wider range of ethnic cuisines, according to a Mintel report. The research group found that consumers were expanding beyond Chinese, Italian and Mexican to embrace new ethnic cuisines. The number of retail items described with the words "Thai," "Japanese" or "Caribbean" increased significantly between 2009 and 2010.

"Thai" usage jumped 68% during that time; "Caribbean" usage advanced 150%, and "Japanese" usage rose more than 230%. The restaurant industry has started to enlarge its ethnic dishes as well.

For instance, Boston Market now has an Island Mojo inspired by the Caribbean and a Sweet Thai Chile Garlic sauce. T.G.I. Friday's promoted Caribbean-style chicken, steak last summer, while Mimi's Cafe added a Thai Chicken Noodle Bowl last fall.

The NPD Group found a 3% increase in the mention of "Japanese" when consumers said what regional or ethnic flavors were listed on menu items they had ordered. That was the biggest percentage jump of any ethnic category.

Consumers in the Mintel study said they heard about ethnic foods mostly from TV programs, magazines or newspapers (26%).

From the March 7, 2011, Prepared Foods E-dition