With a whopping 87% of Americans reporting having tried Mexican food, the cuisine is local “By far the most widely consumed Latin American cuisine, which not only reflects the availability of Mexican cuisine, but also the profound influence on American food culture.”According to a recent Flavor Flash report by T. Hasegawa.
Second among the Latin American dishes North Americans eat is Cuban, with 23% of Americans saying they eat it. Puerto Ricans ranked third at 18%, while Brazilians and Colombians ranked for American attention at 13% and 12%, respectively. The list is rounded off by Peruvian with 8%, Venezuelan with 7% and finally Chilean with 5%.
Despite the significant gap between consumption of foods and flavors from Mexico and other Latin American regions, T. Hasegawa sees an opportunity for brands, retailers, and grocery companies to upgrade the 41% of the occasional Latin American cuisine to the 31% who regularly eat Latin American cuisine.
And the best place to start is with Millennials and Gen Xers, who already show a stronger affinity for the flavors of Latin America than older baby boomers and younger Gen Zers, according to the report.
While Generation X is 25% more likely to expect Latin American flavors on non-Latin menus, compared with just 21% of Millennials, T. Hasegawa reports that “Millennials are the most avid patrons of the hospitality industry, and their interest in diversifying the menu with Latin American foods suggests there is room for growing less-consumed Latin American cuisine and also for operators to have some room for Latin American menu innovation.”
However, the report quickly debunked the myth that millennials “are solely responsible for driving research into cuisine and food trends,” finding that 44% of Generation X eat Latin American cuisine at times and 33% eat it regularly, compared with 42% and 36% of millennials and
“Break the eating habits”
Another strategy to introduce more Americans to Latin American flavors and foods is to offer them in smaller formats, such as snacks, appetizers, and hand-held foods “Because they require less commitment”As a full lunch or dinner, the report notes.
“The limited cost of snacks makes them a great place to allow consumers to experiment with new flavors and ingredients, suggesting that Latin American flavors and ingredients are ripe for brand exploration.”The report explains.
For support, she referred to the results of a survey of more than 1,700 Internet users carried out in April, which found that snacks were seen as the “most exciting” format – 59% of the respondents received support.
However, it was also found that currently only 21% of respondents typically eat Latin American flavors as snacks and only 20% eat them with starters, while 53% say they eat them for lunch and 79% for dinner. But instead of seeing this as an obstacle, the report positions this as a market opportunity and void in the market.
In addition to snacks, offering sauces, condiments and “quick-scratch” solutions that allow consumers to try and personalize Latin American dishes and flavors at home, but in less time, could also make it easier to adopt the trend, according to the report.
Latin American flavors already associated with home cooking, including coriander, chorizo, salsa verde, carne asada, and tomatillo, the report says.
Flavors that are prominently used in fast food or in-store ready meals are also better known for getting the hops into the pantry. Examples from fast food restaurants include chipotle pepper, al pastor, and tajin, while those from dishes prepared in a shop include poblano, plantains, and chimi churi.
Offer healthier options
Innovators adopting Latin American flavors have to overcome some notable stereotypes if they are to connect with modern day buyers – most notably, the association of flavors with indulgence.
According to the report, only 25% of adults surveyed associated Latin American cuisine with “healthy” in April – far fewer than the 36% who associate it with “cozy”.
“Some Latin cuisines and foods may have less healthy reputations, but brands can work to change that perception by strengthening the links between whole and plant-based foods used in Latin cuisine and their nutritional benefits.”the report notes.
It adds that this goes beyond plant-based meat substitutes and includes the emphasis on traditional vegetables, legumes, fruits and grains used in the traditional foods of the various cultures.