Chicago, IL—According to market research firm, Mintel, sales in the ethnic food sector have climbed steadily since 2004, setting a record high of $2.2 billion in 2009. In addition, Mintel forecasts solid growth of nearly 20% from 2010 to 2014. Mexican/Hispanic foods represented the largest segment of the market with nearly two-thirds (62%) of sales, but with the Asian and Indian food segments driving the market growth with an 11% and 35% increase, respectively, from 2006 to 2008.

Although these numbers capture the market as a whole, not just in the natural and organic sectors, retailers should be aware of the likelihood of sales growth as a result of ethnic food sales. Americans are becoming more aware of the health benefits associated with foods from around the globe and will likely search for ingredients at their local natural products stores that they cannot find elsewhere. Adding to this, the slow economy has forced many Americans to stay at home and cook for themselves. For example, says Mintel, nearly six in 10 respondents said they had cooked Mexican food in the past month. Also, younger adults may have more of an adventurous spirit when trying out new flavors and recipes with some 91% of respondents aged 18–24 having cooked ethnic food in the same timeframe.

Food manufacturers have responded to these trends with more ethnic seasonings, sauces, packaged meals and kits. Retailers who may not have stocked these items previously may benefit from expanding their ethnic food section.


Published in WholeFoods Magazine, Feb. 2010