International food insights

Outside of immigration, global cuisines remain a channel for both creativity and comfort. Mintel research from 2019 found that more than half of Canadians view themselves as being more open to eating international foods than they were a few years ago, with more than three quarters (77%) also viewing international foods as being more mainstream than they used to be.1 Slight shifts are emerging, pointing to signs that while mainstream cuisines remain popular, consumers are exploring beyond the classics.

Growth has stalled among most of the mainstream and emerging international cuisines thanks to a residual effect of inflation, a slowly rebounding foodservice industry, supply chain issues disrupting availability and slower innovation. Still, mainstream international cuisines have large audiences and consumers are invested in finding experiences through cuisine, which leaves ample space for innovation and growth.

Currently in stores we see separate mainstream and imported ethnic sets or groupings, but as we look to the future, we may see the incorporation of international products into their corresponding mainstream category – think noodles with pasta, soy sauce to cooking sauces, etc. The intent is to create basket building opportunities, and with incorporation of global ingredients in our everyday meal planning, this really is a natural evolution.

Despite headwinds, there are still strong trends that are driving category growth and evolution – the first being “Bring on the heat!”. Interest is growing in newly emerging global cuisines with spicy flavours.

The influence of social media on pop culture continues to power ahead. Social media is predictably a powerful and tangible place to cultivate cuisine exploration. Cultural curiosity and discovery can influence consumers to shape their own experiences through what they connect with every day.

Better-for-you formulations are becoming more commonplace and include “free from” and clean ingredient claims (where flavour and authenticity are not compromised). These formulations which include flavours and ingredients associated with wellness are highly sought after by consumers to help them achieve their all-encompassing health and well-being goals.

Our palates continue to need to be satiated, and there are many consumers actively seeking new flavours and culinary techniques. Consumers are also looking to experience global cuisines to bring new and exciting flavour profiles to at-home cooking. Fifty-nine percent of US sauce consumers say a wider range of sauces from unique international cuisines would encourage them to use more.1 Many consumers are refining their palates and across all generations, all agree – global cuisine tastes best when authentically prepared, using authentic ingredients.

There are regional cuisines that have made significant headway already, the most familiar being Southern Italian, Caribbean and Cantonese. But consumers are strongly curious, and are also trying Filipino, Oaxacan (Southern Mexico) and African cuisines.

When consumers were asked about the most reliable culinary source of inspiration, “word of mouth” was cited across all generations. This was followed by Instagram and TikTok, reinforcing the importance of social media and how much consumers lean on this avenue, even over television and restaurants.

1 Regional & International Flavors and Ingredients Market Report – US – 2022, Mintel

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Canadian trends//December 6, 2023

In the past four years the grocery industry has seen seismic shifts to supply chains, transportation channels, and economic uncertainty that has evolved consumer behaviour and ultimately the retail landscape.

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