Flavors supplier T. Hasegawa USA published its latest “Flavor Flash” report, which looks at the latest trends in Latin cuisine.
Here are just a few learnings:
Latin cuisine has lots of room to move beyond Mexican food. Unsurprisingly, Mexican cuisine dominates the category, given its widespread availability and profound influence on U.S. food culture. More than 87 percent of people in a recent Mintel survey cited Mexican food as one of the Latin cuisines they eat – nearly four times that Cuban food (23 percent) and Puerto Rican food (18 percent).
Mexican cuisine is mainstreaming onto non-Latin menus. Latin ingredients and flavors that add complexity and nuance (such as smoky Oaxacan black bean, tomatillo salsa, poblano rajas, añejo cheese and others) are increasingly finding their way into restaurant menus that aren’t specifically Latin-based.
Gen X are nearly as engaged as Millennials in driving exploration and food trends that include Latin cuisine. This debunks the stereotype that Millennials are solely responsible for the recent boost in flavor trends on restaurant menus. Gen-X played a large role in mainstreaming Mexican food and continue to be just as engaged in regular and occasional consumption of Latin cuisine as their slightly younger counterparts.
The consumer perception is that Latin cuisine is affordable and exciting, but not necessarily healthy. Brands that position Latin foods that align with contemporary health-focused trends (for example, plant-based proteins) will help accelerate the growth of the category.
Consumers turned to Latin cuisine and other global food and drink flavors throughout 2020, as a source of diversion and exploration during the pandemic. In a Mintel survey in November 2020, more than a third of consumers polled expressed interest in trying Oaxacan, Peruvian, Brazilian and Argentinian cuisine, indicating that palates have evolved to try exciting new foods, ingredients and flavor profiles, compared to previous years.