How popular are ethnic foods? Let us count the ways. Actually, industry suppliers, researchers and associations are doing just that – in new data, forecasts and market studies. Just consider how prominently ethnic foods are mentioned in . . .

the National Restaurant Association’s menu trend forecast
National Restaurant Association (NRA) research suggests that consumers are hungry for new experiences, easy-access dining solutions and variety – and that these trends will be reflected in restaurant services and on menus in the coming years. According to NRA’s2008 Restaurant Industry Forecast,the nation’s 945,000 restaurants will provide diners with a wider variety of menu choices and flavors, technology solutions and take-out and delivery options.

Here are predictions from more than 1,000 American Culinary Federation member chefs.

Food & Beverage Trends
  1. Small plates, tapas, mezze and bite-size desserts

  2. Alternative source ingredients – including locally grown produce, organics, sustainable seafood, grass-fed and free-range items

  4. Ethnic cuisines, flavors and ingredients

  6. Alcohol, both on the menu and as an ingredient

  8. Wraps, pitas, tortillas (particularly at quick-service)

  10. Entrée salads

  12. Sandwiches, particularly chicken and breakfast

one of Packaged Facts’ latest market studies
Packaged Facts, New York, N.Y., projects that the buying power of 39 million African-Americans in the United States will reach $1.1 trillion by 2012.

“The African-American cohort continues to be a significant consumer segment that in some ways exercises more economic clout than the ever-popular Hispanic one,” says Tatjana Meerman. “African-Americans’ purchasing behaviors can differ in many ways, ranging from what it bought at the grocery store to clothing style and magazine preferences. Marketers should pay attention to these differences to execute marketing campaigns that target the many segments of this important demographic cohort.”

McCormick & Company’s 2008 flavor pairings forecast
McCormick & Co. Inc., Hunt Valley, Md., forecast its top flavor pairings and said this year’s list is influenced by growing interest in health and wellness, authentic ethnic ingredients and cooking techniques and local and artisan foods. McCormick said it surveyed trend experts, chefs, food technologists and sensory analysts as well as leading restaurant chefs, cookbook authors and TV food personalities.

The top 10 pairings include:
  1. Oregano & Heirloom Beans

  3. Vanilla Bean & Cardamom

  5. Chile & Cocoa

  7. Coriander & Coconut Water

  9. Lemon Grass & Lychee

  11. Red Curry & Masa

  13. Orange Peel & Natural Wood

  15. Allspice & Exotic Meats

  17. Poppy Seed & Rose

  19. Rubbed Sage & Rye Whiskey
a savory flavor forecast from Bell Flavors & Fragrances
Bell Flavors & Fragrances, Northbrook, Ill., recently predicted 2008’s 10 most popular sweet and savory flavorings for the food industry. Based on sample requests, internal trend scouting and outside research, Bells predicts this year’s 10 on-trend savory flavors will include:

  1. Achiote

  3. Sofrito

  5. Ras-al-hanou

  7. Tandoori

  9. Tea smoked

  11. Chermoula

  13. Sumac

  15. Kaffir lime

  17. Pandan

  19. Tamarind