Ethnic food an emerging market for processors

The ethnic food market is forecasted to grow by 20.3 percent by 2017 as consumer interest increases and food product development sharpens its focus.

plate of sushiFood companies, just like any business, strive to make and market unique products that will lead to increased sales. In a January 2013 report, market analyst firm Mintel points to the ethnic food market as a niche opportunity for businesses with a forecasted growth of 20.3 percent by 2017.

Hispanic food has been the most popular with the highest sales by far. Asian and Mediterranean/Middle Eastern foods are expected to have a much higher growth rate by 2017, according to Mintel. In the past two years, Asian food had a 41 percent increase in new product introductions while other ethnic foods saw product releases stay relatively flat.

In a study, Mintel found that people preferred to control the spiciness of the product, desired healthier ethnic food options, and would rather make their ethnic food from scratch rather than buy a prepackaged meal. However, convenience, ease of preparation, and price were also found to be important to consumers. Although over half typically purchased ethnic food when it was on sale, they were willing to spend more for unique and traditional flavors, especially from less-known cuisines.

Mintel suggests company’s focus on prepackaged foods intended for larger families and focus on making their products seem fresher and less processed to attract more consumers. Finally, Mintel found that there was a great opportunity for ethnic foods to expand into the breakfast offerings.

Small, private label companies stand a chance in this market and currently have 39.8 percent of the current market share. With consumers reporting that private label ethnic food tastes just as good as branded, small companies have an opening for new product development to meet this market, according to Mintel analysts.

Through a partnership with Michigan State University Extension, the MSU Product Center provides product development assistance for companies as they work to introduce to new products. For more information, visit the MSU Product Center website or call 517-432-8750.

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