Mintel: When it comes to ethnic foods, authenticity is key

CHICAGO — Among consumers who eat ethnic food at home, two-thirds of them said authenticity is the utmost important ingredient, according to new Mintel research.

In addition to an authentic flavor, ethnic foodies also emphasized that ethnic food should have the following features: all-natural (49%), premium/gourmet or artisanal (49%) and reduced fat (48%) positional claims, which round out the top characteristics that matter in the purchase decision.

"If flavor fanatics are going to spend their hard earned money and time visiting an ethnic restaurant or buying international foods to prepare at home, increasingly, they want it to be the real deal," says David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel. "Therefore, products positioned as such have a greater likelihood of finding favor with consumers."

When it came to what type of ethnic fare made at home, 70% of Mintel respondents said they made Italian food in the past 30 days, while nearly two-thirds (63%) of people have made Mexican food, followed by 46% who made Chinese food and 29% who made fusion dishes, mixing elements from various culinary traditions.

Mintel also noted that interest in specific ethnic fare, including Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, has increased over the past year.

"Consumer interest in healthy eating and convenience food contributes to the growth seen in the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern categories," Browne said. "The growing popularity of prepackaged hummus and Greek-style yogurt mixed with the deli salad case offering chickpea, tabbouleh and orzo salads is giving this cuisine a healthful and easy edge on the competition."

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