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Sales of ethnic foods to hit $2.1 billion

CHICAGO An influx of immigrants and growing interest from the young and wealthy will push U.S. sales of ethnic foods to a record high of $2.1 billion in 2009, according to research company Mintel.

Sales of ethnic food grew by more than 17 percent between 2004 and 2009, the company said.

Most of that food — 62 percent — is Mexican, which was cooked at home by nearly six in 10 respondents to Mintel’s survey. But growth is being driven by Indian food, which grew by 11 percent from 2006 to 2008, and Asian food, which also grew by 11 percent in that period. Mintel considers Asian and Indian food to be separate categories.

“Ethnic food” includes products identified by data analysis company Information Resources Inc. as Mexican or Asian, plus a basket of other ingredients selected by Mintel using IRI data, including marinated vegetables, chutneys, noodles and other ingredients.

Senior Mintel analyst David Browne said more than a million immigrants have become permanent legal United States residents since 2005, and that group is “influencing the American palate and piquing Americans’ interest in new cuisines.”

The young and the wealthy have the most interest in cooking ethnic food. Among respondents with household incomes higher than $150,000, 92 percent said they have cooked ethnic food in the past month, and 91 percent of respondents aged 18 to 24 answered the same way.

Two-thirds of respondents said they prefer to cook ethnic meals “from scratch.”

Contact Bret Thorn at [email protected]

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