Taste Bud Travel

Michelle Edelman

Michelle Edelman

Chief Strategy Officer

Taste Bud Travel

If you’re not going on an exotic vacation this summer, chances are, your mouth will anyway – particularly if you’re a Millennial. We’ve previously discussed on this blog that well over half of Millennials prefer to buy experiences over things, and that Millennials are food-adventurous. These trends are coming together to produce more exotic tastes in food and food experiences.

International flavors grow at grocery and restaurant tables

U.S. retail sales of ethnic foods amounted to about $11 billion in 2013 and the diverse category is estimated to generate over $12.5 billion by 2018 (Mintel 2017). As a result, a good selection of ethnic and cultural foods is very important for 24.8% of consumers when selecting their primary grocery store. (Statistica 2017)

What tastes are growing on restaurant menus? According to the National Restaurant Association:

Cuisine Popularity
Source: National Restaurant Association

What’s fueling this growth?

Three converging trends have caused this rising interest.

  • The global melting pot. As international travel, immigration and globalized trade increased worldwide, the interest and attention of ethnic cuisine has risen.

multicultural consumers

  • Millennials come of age. Millennials grew up during this explosion in ethnic diversification, so it’s no surprise that over 50% of Millennials now refer to themselves as “foodies.” (Iconoculture)
  • Health concerns drive food choices. Ethnic foods are perceived as fresher and more balanced, so it’s attracting consumers who are reengineering a healthier diet. (Mintel 2016)

Palate Expansion At Home

Consumers typically try new ethnic tastes while out and about before taking the plunge to make that dish. One goal that packaged goods companies are actively pursuing: reducing the “scare barrier” to preparing new types of food. Though 64% of people agree that trying new foods is fun, about the same percentage of consumers are afraid they will fail when cooking exotic foods (Cooking Light 2016).

Some brands are taking a very direct approach. To better help home chefs work healthier, Latin-inspired dishes into their repertoire, Goya has launched a MyPlate cookbook, which features 30 healthy Latin recipes and product highlights.

Others are inspiring with food pairings. Jacksonville, FL- based Beaver Street Fisheries decided to pair with Asian cuisine. As consumers try to work more fish into their diets, that protein suffers the same hard-to-cook impressions as some international foods. However, consumers perceive Asian foods as fresh, healthy, customizable and fusion-friendly – not to mention paired well with seafood.

Palate Expansion Gets People Out and About

The desire for new food experiences is driving a significant expansion in food and beverage events. More than three in four Millennials (78%) would choose to spend money on a desirable experience or event over buying a desirable item, and 55% of Millennials say they’re spending more on events than ever before – a trend that shows no sign of slowing (White Hutchinson).

71% of Millennials say they love to attend food-focused events, and 81% say they enjoy exploring new cultures via food (YPulse 2017). Though it was recently reported that a Millennials favorite night out is Uber Eats and Netflix – food experiences away from the home are an important part of modern consumer lifestyles.

Here’s what kind of food experiences are growing.

  • Food Halls. From Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market (opened 1892) to the James Beard Public Market in Portland, OR (2016 opening), Millennials flock to these indoor markets with vendors selling prepared items and groceries. They serve as incubators for small, independent businesses and as gathering spaces to grab a bite and pick up products of the local, fresh, and artisanal varieties.
  • Food Festivals. A whopping 80% of Millennials surveyed said they attended three or more food, wine or beer events in the past 12 months, and nearly half (44%) attended five or more. These events varied from tastings and seasonal parties, special events and pop-ups, to a range of different food, wine and beer festivals of all shapes and sizes (White Hutchinson).

There’s a preconceived notion that Millennials like festivals for the cheap/free factor. But this study shows that exclusivity or unique offerings hold bankable value for Millennials.

So – if you sell international flavors or unique food experiences – now’s your time to shine. Flavors that were previously relegated to one area of the grocery are now migrating all throughout. More mainstream brands or restaurants can take advantage of that cachet by partnering or creating exclusive experiences that will pique curiosity and trial.

For more Peter Mayer Food & Beverage Insights, click here.

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