October 19/Vancouver, B.C./Vancouver Sun-- Canada's growing Asian population is exerting a powerful influence on the nation's dietary trends, from eating more fruit to consuming less beef, according to a newly released market study.

Canadians are eating 703 million fewer servings of potatoes per year than they were in 2001 and 297 million more servings of rice, according to Eating Patterns in Canada (EPIC), a study by market-research firm NPD Group.

The popularity of beef is waning -- down 384 million meals a year over the past decade -- while seafood and pork consumption is increasing steadily, by 248 million and 372 million meals a year respectively, according to food and beverage analyst Joel Gregoire.

Asian-Canadians are also more likely to reach for fruit as a snack than Canadians as a whole. The Asian population tends to snack more than other cultures, averaging 309 snacks per year per person - the national average is 291 - choosing fruit 38% of the time, compared to just 30% for all Canadians.

The share of immigrants to Canada coming from Asia has risen from 14% in 1981 to 45% forecast for 2011, he said, adding there is little doubt that population has had an impact on the way all Canadians eat.

"Rice, to no one's surprise, is very popular with Asian consumers, but when we take a step back we can see rice growing overall in Canada and potatoes declining," Gregoire said. "Potatoes are still eaten more often, but [they're] on a downward trend."

The trend lines indicate some convergence in the eating habits of all Canadians, he said.

"We still do see big differences in what Asian-Canadians eat as well," he said.

Asian consumers are less likely to eat beef, fuelling an overall decline in the amount of beef eaten by the so-called "average" Canadian.

Pork, seafood and poultry are all popular with Asians, Gregoire said.

"Whether that is bleeding over into the rest of the community is hard to say, but the sheer size of the immigrant community from Asia is impacting [those sales]," he said.

"We recognize that there is incredible diversity within the category of Asian-Canadians -- people of Chinese, Indian and Filipino descent -- but for our purposes here, we have combined them to see these larger trends," Gregoire said.

NPD Group maintains a rolling sample of 3,000 Canadians, who report a full week of their eating and drinking behavior to provide consumption data for analysis.

"We are able to get a pretty good picture of eating behavior in Canada," said Gregoire.

"We are in the field 52 weeks a year."

NPD Group provides market analysis to food and beverage companies, which use detailed data about Canadians eating habits - what they eat and drink, when they do so and where - to ensure they are well-positioned to exploit emerging markets.

"Food manufacturers need to understand what the flavor profiles are that will resonate with [Asian] consumers," Gregoire said.

"Asian consumers are far more likely to eat tropical fruits, for instance."

 From the October 19, 2011, Prepared Foods' Daily News.