Furthermore, much like the assimilation of pizza and spaghetti into mainstream fare, it appears many of these foods are following suit. Consider tortilla sales for example. During a recent 52-week tracking period, IRI InfoScan data show supermarket tortilla dollar sales increasing at a faster pace in than potato chips (3.7% vs. 2.2%). Admittedly, any potato chip growth involves a much larger base, but it does reflect a rising interest in tortillas and Hispanic foods, in general.
Interestingly, an increasing percentage of potato chip sales may well be influenced by Hispanic flavors. In April, PepsiCo’s Frito-Lay expanded its partnership with Tapatio in introducing Lay’s Tapatio Limon flavored potato chips and Cheetos Tapatio flavored snacks. Those items join Ruffles Tapatio Limon flavored potato chips and Doritos Tapatio flavored tortilla chips. The Lay’s Tapatio Limon and Cheetos Tapatio both feature a combination of red chili peppers, spices and a hint of garlic; with the Lay’s variety adding the flavor of lime juice. Clearly, the all-American potato chip is embracing the flavors of both Americas, with Chile Limon Lay’s, Queso-flavored Ruffles and Pringles with jalapeno flavor.
Putting these facts in figures into a wider context, some bold flavor growth likely can be attributed to Americans looking for more exotic and/or robust flavors; even an aging population with a preference for spicy options. Meanwhile, Hispanic consumers already comprise more than a quarter of the U.S. population today, and experts say this change is dramatically flavoring the American culinary experience.
Look no further than the options available in the average supermarket. Hispanic foods and beverages were an $8 billion market in 2012, according to Packaged Facts. By 2017, this market researcher projects that number will reach $11 billion.
Tortillas and taco kits outsell hamburgers and hot dog buns, according to the latest edition of Packaged Facts’ “Hispanic Foods and Beverages in the U.S.”
“Marketers have taken note,” the report says. “The market isn't only the playground of traditional Hispanic food companies like Goya and the Gruma Corporation. Mainstream marketers such as General Mills and Kraft have jumped on the bandwagon as well, not only with Latin-flavored products but also with mainstream products whose market share they'd like to grow with the expanding Hispanic population.”
The popularity of Hispanic and other ethnic cuisines has even helped one side dish -- namely, white rice -- buck a trend away from sides. The NPD Group’s National Eating Trends report finds Americans ate white rice on its own as a side dish an average of 24 times this year, a rise from 20 servings in 2003.
White rice not only is a tradition that many millennial Hispanics have retained, but it is an important component in a variety of ethnic dishes. It also was the top-rated side dish in the National Restaurant Association’s annual survey of chefs nationwide. Indeed, that survey showcased a strong sentiment toward Hispanic flavors. Respondents expressed growing interest in everything from Peruvian cuisine; to taquitos as appetizers; more breakfast items utilizing chorizo sausage; new fruits, such as guava; and queso fresco as a key ingredient.
Hispanic flavor interest also extends beyond food and into the beverage aisles, as evidenced by the rise in tequila sales. Consider that in 2006, tequila imports jumped 23% to nearly 107 million liters just from the previous year.
Looking more broadly, rising interest in ethnic foods is not limited to a single nation or type of cuisine. In the United Kingdom, Waitrose launched a range of chilled soups in such flavors as West Indian Chicken, Bombay Spiced Cauliflower & Carrot and Crème Fraiche and Coriander. Elsewhere, Morrisons reported that its ethnic food sales had risen more than 600% during the past five years. Then consider that Tesco’s recent introduction of West African and south Indian foods (joining its Polish, Greek Cypriot and Filipino offerings) now takes its total number of authentic ethnic options to more than 3,000.
Mintel found six in 10 U.K. adults say they enjoy eating foreign food, and 44% say they always seek new and interesting ethnic foods. A similar portion of American consumers indicated a preference for ethnic food, in general.
A 2011 Mintel survey found 63% of respondents had prepared “any type” of ethnic food six or more times in the month prior to the survey. That Mintel survey also pointed to the potential for easy-to-prepare versions of ethnic meals with a note that “the percentage of from-scratch cooks dropped by six points (to 59%) in the past year, as interest in time-saving and premade products has risen.” pf