What you need to know

Sales of international foods in the US are projected to grow moderately between 2015 and 2020, from $12.2 billion to $13.9 billion. Immigration and the increasingly multicultural nature of American society are factors that are influencing growth. Brands that provide authentic products and marketing are likely to best capture consumers, especially important user groups such as Millennials and Hispanics. Consumers are more likely to report eating international foods at restaurants rather than preparing them at home, presenting brands with a challenge to increase home preparation with better awareness of international cuisine and product preparation demonstrations.


This Report builds on the analysis presented in Mintel’s Ethnic Foods – US, January 2014, as well as the January 2013, 2012, 2011, and September 2009 Reports of the same title, as well as Defining Ethnic Food – US, August 2015. The definition of the ethnic food market is a gray area in the food industry. While supermarkets traditionally merchandise ethnic food in “international” aisles, additional products throughout stores often have either ethnic/cultural origins outside of the US (eg tortillas), or are based loosely on ethnic food products or ethnic inspired product (eg wasabi, teriyaki-flavored salad dressing). These additional items may be considered ethnic by some in the food industry, but not by others. For the purposes of this Report, Mintel has focused on a combination of two distinct sets of products in defining the size of the ethnic food market:

  • Food categories explicitly defined by Information Resources, Inc. as “Mexican” and “Asian.” Includes product categories such as salsa, taco sauce, refried beans, soy sauce, noodles, etc.

  • A custom universe of specific products within selected IRI categories (such as frozen dinners, dry packaged dinners, dips, seasoning mixes, etc) that have been identified by Mintel as fitting into one of the ethnic food segments covered by this Report. These products were identified based on brand-level data.

Some categories, such as ramen, frozen tortillas, and sauerkraut, were entirely classified as “ethnic.” For broad categories such as frozen dinners, the brand data available does not distinguish between different products. Items such as frozen enchilada meals or Asian stir-fry dinners cannot be distinguished from non-ethnic meals. This may result in some underestimation of those categories. This Report does not attempt to cover all ethnic food or all cultural cuisines across all food and beverage categories. In some cases, food categories were left out because they are either fully discussed in other recent Mintel Reports, and/or Mintel believes these categories or cuisines are common enough to the typical American diet as to render them no longer truly ethnic food (eg Italian food).

The Report includes sales of the following IRI product categories:

Refrigerated: eggroll/wonton wrappers, tortillas, meat/seafood seasoning mixes, sauce/gravy/marinade mixes, flavored spreads, breakfast entrees, dinners/entrees, fresh soup, hand-held non-breakfast entrees, side dishes, appetizers/snack rolls, prepared salad/fruit/coleslaw, sauerkraut, dips, marinated vegetables/fruit.

Frozen: dips, meat/seafood seasoning sauces, sauce/gravy marinade, soup, tortilla/egg roll/wonton wrappers, tortillas, side dishes, prepared vegetables, appetizers/snack rolls, hand-held non-breakfast entrees, multi-serve dinners/entrees, single-serve dinners/entrees.

Dry/shelf-stable: chutney, marinated vegetable/fruit, dinner mixes, dinner mixes with meat, salad/side dish mixes, Mexican foods/sauces, cooking & salad oils, potato pancake/dumpling mixes, rice mixes, dips, dry seasoning mixes, meat/seafood seasoning mixes, sauce mixes, hot/Cajun sauces, meat sauce/marinade/glaze, microwaveable packaged dinners, prepared dinners/entrees, prepared pasta dishes, noodles, condensed wet soup, dry soup, ramen, ready-to-serve wet soup.

Market segments consist of:

  • Mexican/Hispanic

  • Asian/Indian

  • Mediterranean/Middle Eastern

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