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  Ethnic Food Brands: A Guide to the World on a Shelf   Ethnic Food Brands: A Guide to the World on a Shelf  Barry Silverstein  
         
 
Ethnic Food Brands: A Guide to the World on a Shelf The result is a boon to brands that capitalize on cuisine indigenous to a country or region. Italian, Hispanic and Asian food brands are especially in vogue, but there is a surprisingly strong interest in kosher and halal brands as well. Some of the growth is driven by the increasing number of restaurants specializing in ethnic cuisine and the international flair of celebrity chefs. Some of it derives from more adventurous eating by consumers. And some of it is due to a widespread belief (not always accurate) that many ethnic cuisines are somehow “healthier.”

In the United States, arguably the largest ethnic food market in the world, US$ 1 out of every US$ 7 spent on groceries goes toward ethnic food (Euromonitor International, 2006). Ethnic food in the US is a US$ 75 billion annual business. Mexican cuisine is and continues to remain the country’s most popular ethnic food segment, according to Datamonitor. The next largest food segments are Chinese, kosher and non-Chinese Asian.

Part of the popularity of ethnic food brands is due to America’s changing demographics. Hispanics and Asians are the fastest-growing segments of the population, according to the US Census Bureau. In the past ten years, each segment has grown about one-third, but in the next forty years, the Asian population is projected to grow faster than the Hispanic population.

 
Spain and Germany are seeing growth of 30 percent annually in ethnic food, according to Food From Britain, a research firm in the UK. A few years ago, the fastest-growing European market for ethnic foods was the Netherlands, the firm says. Sweden was Europe’s number-one consumer of Mexican food.

One beneficiary of the worldwide growth of ethnic food brands is the Hispanic brand Goya. Founded in 1936 in New York City by immigrants from Spain, Goya is today the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States. The Goya brand, with more than 1,500 product offerings, often occupies multiple shelves in grocery stores. In 2005 alone, Goya added over 400 new products.

Goya has adopted the approach that Latino foods should be segmented further into country-oriented cuisine, because that’s the way Hispanics identify themselves. As a result, the company markets products from the Caribbean, Mexico, Spain, and Central and South America. The company manufactures and distributes its products from the US, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Spain.

The Asian food brand segment has seen strong growth not just in the United States, but also worldwide. In the UK, for example, the leading ethnic foods for years have been Indian and Chinese. But other Asian cuisines are on the rise. UK market research publisher Key Note says that some of the fastest-growing ethnic foods are Malaysian, Japanese and Indonesian.

One leading brand in the European market, Daloon (which means “The Great Dragon” in Chinese), got its start in Denmark. Sai-chiu Van, of Chinese origin, traveled to Denmark to study agriculture, but he remained there and founded Daloon in 1960. He began by making spring rolls in the basement of his Copenhagen home. Today the company operates from two factories in Denmark, offices in the UK and a subsidiary in Germany. Daloon sells Chinese, Indian and Thai products in the UK, Germany and Scandinavia. It also exports to Austria, France, Spain and Switzerland.

In the US, more than half the Asian population is concentrated in just three states—California, New York and Texas—but Asian food is widely popular. Chinese, Japanese and Thai food brands have long been considered mainstream, but now Vietnamese, Indonesian and Korean brands are also popular.

Cosmos Food was a quiet forty-year-old California producer of kimchi, a Korean delicacy, when David Kim purchased the company in 2002. Since then, the company’s business has “more than doubled, in part because it went mainstream: Its products now line the shelves of Costcos across California and Wal-Marts across America” (“Cosmos Food Co., fermenting revolution with its kimchi,” Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2009). Cosmos now runs the country’s largest kimchi factory.

Indian food brands have proven to be especially popular in the past few years. Hain Celestial Group, a US$ 1 billion company based in the United States, markets numerous food brands in North America and Europe. One brand, Ethnic Gourmet, features frozen meals and sauces in four categories: Thai, Indian, Malaysian and Greek. The Indian line is the leader, with ten frozen products and four simmer sauces. Ethnic Gourmet products are not only exotic in taste, they are also all natural—a powerful brand attribute in today’s health-conscious consumer market.

 
One of the more interesting ethnic food growth areas is rooted in a cultural concern for freshness and cleanliness. Kosher and halal foods, prepared in accordance with Jewish and Muslim dietary laws, respectively, are finding audiences beyond their ethnic base because of their perceived health benefits. “According to Packaged Facts’ new report, ‘MarketTrend: Kosher- and Halal-Certified Foods in the U.S.,’ sales of certified kosher foods through grocery stores swelled from nearly US$ 150 billion in 2003 to more than US$ 200 billion in 2008, demonstrating a compound annual growth rate twice that of the overall food market” (Progressive Grocer, April 17, 2009).

Hebrew National, a kosher brand, was founded in 1905 by Isadore Pinckowitz, a Jewish Romanian immigrant who sold kosher sausages and hot dogs to New York’s deli restaurants. In 1965, the company became widely known for its ad campaign that used the slogan “We Answer to a Higher Authority.” The brand continues to this day to promote the fact that its meats do not contain artificial coloring, by-products, artificial flavoring or fillers—factors appealing to both kosher and non-kosher households. Today owned by food giant ConAgra, Hebrew National remains a highly recognized brand and one of the leading kosher meat processors in the world.

Al Safa Halal, a Canadian company, distributes chicken, turkey, beef, pizza and falafel products to stores serving Muslim communities in Canada and the United States. Mekkafood is a market leader in halal deep-frozen products, with locations in Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. The company recently expanded, adding a new production facility in Holland and adding lahmacun (Turkish pizza) to their lineup.

The popularity of ethnic food brands is giving rise to an emerging market for ethnic store brands and even ethnically-focused stores. For example, Stop & Shop, a leading chain of supermarkets in the northeastern United States, launched MiCasa, a Latino store brand, in an effort to compete with Goya. US retailer Walmart announced in March that it will open two Supermercado de Walmart stores targeting Hispanic customers in Phoenix, Arizona and Houston, Texas.

It’s all part of an ongoing retail effort to put the world on a shelf.     

[11-May-2009]

 
  
  

Barry Silverstein has been a frequent brandchannel contributor since 2007. He has thirty years of advertising and marketing experience and is currently a freelance writer and marketing consultant. He founded and ran his own direct marketing agency and held executive positions with Epsilon, a leading database marketing firm and Arnold, a major ad agency. Silverstein is the author of three marketing books, including the McGraw-Hill book, The Breakaway Brand, which he co-authored with Arnold CEO Fran Kelly.

     
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Ethnic Food Brands: A Guide to the World on a Shelf
 
 Australia has a large and growing market for ethnic food and even supermarket chains. It's not uncommon for every new suburb that sprouts in Perth to have a Prime (Indian supermarket) alongside a Woolies. I don't believe the local ethnic population is enough to support these developments, it shows a real shift in eating habits and patterns of people the world over. 
Banu Kannu, Writer - May 11, 2009
 
 As the world continues to shrink, and our desire and drive for knowledge, experiences, and authenticity continues to rapidly increase this will lead to a growing and common psychographic across the world. The continued internationalising of communities and their palates means that ethnic or world food offerings will increasingly affect most major segments across the global retail food industry in both the short and long term. There's a convergence of convenience, all-natural, healthier, gourmet and authentic ethnic that's going on, and I don't believe these can be viewed separately. I believe the consumer will want the choice to explore many more cuisines than before and will also wish to dig even deeper into those that they are already familiar. It's an exciting category which is large and growing, but really has a lot more sophistication and developments yet to come if the true and still somewhat untapped potential for the mainstreaming of ethnic foods to be unlocked! 
Sunil Sitlani, Co-Founder - May 14, 2009
 
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