Monday, March 10, 2014
By SUZETTE LABOY and J.M. HIRSCH
The Associated Press
(Continued from page 1)
Salsas and other items are seen in the international food aisle of a grocery store Wednesday in Washington.
The Associated Press
Why has rice resisted the death of the side dish? It’s one of the traditions millennial Hispanics have held onto, says Seifer.
And that’s just the start. Rice also was the top-rated side dish in a National Restaurant Association chefs survey of what’s hot. The same survey also found chefs touting taquitos as appetizers; ethnic-inspired breakfast items such as chorizo scrambled eggs; exotic fruits including guava; queso fresco as an ingredient; and Peruvian cuisine.
The influence goes deeper than the numbers. Like Italian food before it, Hispanic food enjoys broad adoption because it is easy for Americans to cook at home. Few Americans will roll their own sushi, but plenty are happy to slap together a quesadilla. Hispanic ingredients also are more common than those of Indian or other Asian cuisines. Ditto for the equipment. While nearly every American home has a skillet for sauteing (a common cooking method in Hispanic cuisines), only 28 percent of homes have a wok, according to NPD.
All of this has meant a near complete loss of ethnicity for many Hispanic foods. Americans now more closely associate tacos, tortilla chips and burritos with fast food than with Hispanic culture.
“The Hispanic market isn’t the only one driving that taste profile,” says Tom Dempsey, CEO of the Snack Food Association. “As manufacturers become more innovative on how to use tortilla chips, that will continue to take a larger share of the snack marketplace.”
Tortilla dollar sales increased at a faster pace in supermarket sales than potato chips this year (3.7 percent vs. 2.2 percent over a 52-week period), according to InfoScan Reviews, a retail tracking service.
Though potato chips continue to be the top-selling salted snack in terms of pounds sold, “the growth of tortilla chips is a little bit more robust than the growth of potato chips,” Dempsey says. “And both tortilla chips and potato chips are reflecting greater influence from the Hispanic taste profile than in previous years.”
Which is to say, even all-American potato chips are increasingly being flavored with traditionally Hispanic ingredients. Care for Lay’s “Chile Limon” chips? How about some “Queso Flavored” Ruffles? Maybe some Pringles Jalapeno? And of course there’s the old standard – Nacho Cheese Doritos.
As testament to their popularity, the Tortilla Industry Association estimates that Americans consumed approximately 85 billion tortillas in 2000. And that’s just tortillas straight up. It doesn’t include chips.
“Having been raised on Wonder bread,” Kabbani, the group’s CEO, reminisced of his childhood days, “I didn’t think that this could displace the sliced bread that was such an item of the American kitchen.” But parents are picking healthier options to wrap their child’s lunch every day, he said.
“When it comes to health, the Mexican cuisines cater better to that with salsas and vegetables,” says Alexandra Aguirre Rodriguez, an assistant professor of marketing at Florida International University.
A healthier option many Americans are choosing is the tomato-based salsa, which beat ketchup sales 2-1, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.
This isn’t simply a matter of Hispanics buying more of their traditional foods.
At the grocer, Hispanic ingredients have moved well beyond the international aisle, sometimes commandeering entire aisles of their own or, increasingly, mingling freely with the rest of the products. Tortillas and taco kits outsell hamburgers and hot dog buns, according to the latest edition of Hispanic Foods and Beverages in the U.S.
Packaged food is also playing a major role.
“If I would look at 10 shopping carts, about half would have taco shells, the Americanized components to make enchiladas or tacos, or frozen chimichangas,” says Terry Soto, president and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in the Hispanic market. There are more non-Hispanics buying those types of foods, she says.
“There is a larger segment of the population that wants the real thing. It’s not so much the products becoming mainstream. It’s about ethnic food becoming that much more of what we eat on a day-to-day basis.”