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Ethnic Dishes Need To Be Authentic, Mintel Says

What’s most important to consumers when it comes to their favorite Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Japanese, Pan-asian or Mediterranean food? Authenticity, Mintel says.

A recent research done by London-based market research firm Mintel emphasized the need for restaurants to make their ethnic dishes authentic in response to the rising demand for ethnic fares among today’s restaurant diners.

The past years have seen a continuous rise in ethnic menu preparation in restaurants, as well as consumers’ demand and consumption. But it turns out that the most important attribute that diners look for in their favorite ethnic food (as they look into restaurant menus in outstanding menu covers) is its genuineness in flavor, or what is commonly termed as authenticity.

“People who are intent on spending their time and money to visit an ethnic restaurant or to buy international ingredients for their ethnic dishes at home have become increasingly aware of what they want: they want their food to be the real deal,” says Mintel senior analyst David Browne. “Products and menus that are positioned as that are then most likely to find favor with today’s customers.”

Other attributes

Other than authentic flavor, ethnic food enthusiasts value the following qualities in their ethnic cuisine before making a purchase:

• Made with all natural ingredients, 49%

• Especially made (artisanal) or gourmet, 49%

• Made with ingredients that have reduced fat, 48%

“The modern American diner is now more exposed to diverse cultures, as opposed to diners twenty years ago,” says Mintel’s director of consumer trends Alexandra Smith. “As they experience once-exotic things like yoga or sushi which has slowly gone mainstream, consumers now tend to increase their benchmark for cultural authenticity.”

This growing attention on ethnic things has developed into a broad consumer trend on ethnic cuisine, seeing consumers setting a higher bar for food that they judge as authentic. 81% of the respondents to Mintel’s study said that they have eaten ethnic food away from home, peering at restaurants’ ethnic menus in leather menu covers at least a month from the time the survey was done. Among the ethnic dishes that came out were:

• Italian food, of which 70% of Mintel’s respondents said that they prepared Italian dishes in the last 30 days. Italian cuisine, however, can hardly be considered as ethnic anymore, since it has become very common in the U.S.

• Mexican food, of which 63% of the respondents have prepared;

• Chinese cuisine, of which 46% attempted to whip up;

• There are also a good 29% of home cooks who decided to do “fusion dishes,” a mix of elements from an assortment of culinary traditions which do not specifically fit into any of our known ethnic fares.

The three mentioned ethnic cuisine menu items (Italian, Mexican and Chinese) are considered as the top three in-demand ethnic fares in restaurants in 2011. The other two, which are also included in the top five, are Pan-Asian and Japanese cuisine. Slowly gaining popularity are the Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines.