Examined through the lens of ethnic heritage, while many consumers have similar ways in which they eat, their cultural background has an impact on what they eat (in terms of flavors and actual dishes), and foods and beverages are an important way for consumers to maintain a connection to their cultural background.
“We find that eating culturally traditional food plays different roles for different ethnic groups,” said Laurie Demeritt, CEO of The Hartman Group, a leading consumer research and consulting firm. “For example, Hispanic and Asian consumers are most likely to eat foods associated with their culture on a more regular basis, but everyone eats traditional “American” food on holidays and special occasions.”
Exploring the Diversity of American Foodways finds that learning about and exploring both one’s background and that of others has become a value in and of itself, especially in foods and beverages, and is a driving force of an evolving, multicultural food culture. Many consumers, especially younger ones, appreciate and seek out diverse flavors and cuisines, and parents seek to cultivate an expansive palate in their children.
The report also finds that ethnic/specialty retailers and restaurants are especially important to Hispanic and Asian consumers beyond the products and menus offered. Specifically, they view ethnic/specialty retailers and restaurants as key sources from which to find authentic, quality products and services, including hard-to-find and authentically sourced ingredients. Such outlets are thought to fulfill emotional needs for connecting to one’s culture, connecting with others of similar background, or supporting one’s community—needs that conventional retailers and American restaurants are not necessarily satisfying.
“Overall, for many consumers, the availability of a wide variety of cuisines is the best part of American multiculturalism,” said Demeritt. “The abundance of variety and expertise in today’s restaurant landscape creates an easy way to connect within and across cultures.”