Italian, Mexican, Japanese…it seems hard to believe that some of today’s routine cuisines were all once considered exotic ethnic foods! Today we have #TacoTuesday and #SushiSaturday, but analysts are predicting that the newest crop of ethnic food trends could come from Afghanistan, Korea, and the Philippines—could #MantuMonday be far behind?
How To Market Ethnic Cuisine
Americans enjoy discovering other cultures through food. In fact, when they travel, three-quarters of Millennials visit local eateries to explore new foods. This interest in sampling the flavors of far-off lands opens the door to opportunities for the food and beverage industry.
Defining Ethnic Foods
The very definition of ethic food is a gray area in the food industry. For consumers, and Millennials in particular, the term, “ethnic,” isn’t considered derogatory, but rather a means of classification, a better way to classify their expectations and a way to distinguish from the familiar. For many consumers, a foreign brand on a package label conveys not only an expectation, but also, an element of authenticity to the foods.
What Do Consumers Consider Ethnic Foods?
Beyond typical Italian, Mexican, and Chinese, the most popular international cuisines include Japanese, Thai, Greek, Cajun, and Middle Eastern. These cuisines are now considered mainstream—consumers are comfortable with these foods and interested in exploring regional variations for a more authentic experience—for example, exploring the Baja, Yucatan, or Oaxacan varieties of Mexican foods or Tuscan or Neapolitan Italian specialties. Google searches show a distinct trend toward Asian and Hispanic specialties: pho, ramen, empanadas, queso fresco, bibimbap, pastelitos, and Adobo seasoning are among the top ethnic food searches in 2016. This enthusiasm and interest in new and exciting flavors offers opportunity for brands.
Consumers View Ethnic Foods as Healthy, More Flavorful
Researchers found that 45% of consumers believe ethnic foods are “more flavorful” and viewed them as “healthy.” But they also found that authenticity mattered—more than a quarter of those polled did not regard chain restaurants as authentic or view them as healthy; for these consumers, ethnic foods taste more like home cooking, offer something unique, and are outside the scope of the foods they regularly consume. When they’re seeking that authentic experience, 56% of Millennials say they visit restaurants, one-third visit food websites, and a quarter learns about new ethnic foods via social media. Interestingly, 19% of Millennials learn about ethnic foods from food trucks, with the majority of those in the Western U.S. and other urban areas. This represents an opportunity for brands to spread awareness about their products through social media, influencers, and event activations.
Today’s consumers have an adventurous palate and are open to the rich experiences of exotic cuisines. As consumers strive to taste the world, there’s opportunity for brands to introduce products that make these flavors accessible. Snack foods offer a low-risk option for consumers to experiment with new cuisines, and for those consumers seeking a more authentic cultural experience, influencer campaigns, recipes, and social media strategies can engage consumers with content. Contact us to learn how Women’s Marketing can help you develop innovative marketing strategies that put a fresh spin on your brand.
Mintel Marketing to Millennials, July 2016, Mintel Defining Ethnic Food, US August 2015, Think With Google Food Trends 2016,