Consumers' appetites for Asian cuisine promise increased demand for frozen/ready-to-eat meals, ingredients, snacks, sauces and cookware

Jeremie Bohbot

Jeremie Bohbot

LOS ANGELES , January 7, 2014 () – Note: Industry Intelligence Food & Beverage Analyst Nevin Barich is on vacation. In his absence, Industry Intelligence is posting its two-part series focusing on U.S. consumers’ growing appetite of ethnic cuisine. Part 1, which can be found below, focuses on Asian-style cuisine. Part 2, which will be published on Jan. 14, will focus on Hispanic cuisine.

Potstickers and sushi may never replace hamburgers and hot dogs in terms of American cuisine, but Asian fare is becoming mainstream when it comes to making dinner or shopping for food. In fact, Asian foods are ranked second in largest ethnic category in the U.S. behind Hispanic foods.

If the popularity of dishes ranging from Thai curry and Vietnamese pho noodles to Chinese stir-fry and Kung Pao chicken is any indication, consumer tastes will likely give rise to increased demand for Asian packaged foods, ingredients, snacks, sauces and even cookware. That’s also partly thanks to the quality of ethnic restaurants, which are inspiring cooks to experiment with international flavors at home.

This special report highlights the trends surrounding Asian cuisines and how consumers’ tastes could influence the future products in your local grocery aisles.

Frozen foods/Ready-to-eat meals

For consumers who may not be as inclined to cook an ethnic meal from scratch, frozen foods and ready-to-eat meals could provide a quick introduction to Asian fare. In fact, the US$8 billion-plus frozen-ready meals market has been focusing on ethnic recipes in developing new products to improve weak performance in recent years, Prepared Foods reported Oct. 15.

ConAgra Foods has been active in Asian cuisines, which bought the rights to PF Chang’s brand in 2012 from Unilever. Among the ethnic frozen food offerings by ConAgra include the PF Chang Home Menu range of frozen foods and individual Asian-inspired meals from its Healthy Choice brand. ConAgra also boasts the Le Choy range of Asian sauces and meals.

Nestle is another major company that has launched several Asian-inspired offerings through its Stouffer’s and Lean Cuisine brands, while supermarket chains Safeway, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have introduced their own Asian frozen foods through their own private-label brands. Among the most popular launches are potstickers in the first half of 2014, according to Innova Market Insights.

International companies are also looking toward the U.S. to capitalize on the trend, such as Japan-based Nichirei Foods, which made a majority share purchase in U.S.-based brand InnovAsian Cuisine in 2012. At the time, Nichirei noted promising long-term growth opportunities in the U.S.

This year, InnovAsian introduced a Lemon Grass Kitchen line featuring Southeast Asian flavors featuring the cuisines of Thailand and Vietnam. InnovAsian is not alone, as other food makers are also venturing beyond more common Asian fare.


While Southeast Asian food products are relatively new and underdeveloped compared to more typical Asian fare, they appear to be making a splash in salty snacks and beverages.

Recent launches include Vietnamese soft drinks under the Phancy Authentic Soda Chanh name in lychee and limeade flavors; Trader Joe’s Sai Tung Green Curry with Red Gaba Rice; Popsalot Gourmet Popcorn’s Saigon Sunrise ready-to-eat popcorn described as “Crisp & salt-kissed kettle corn swirled with Vietnamese cinnamon”; Trader Joe’s Thai Lime & Chilli Almonds; Ready Pac’s Bistro Bowl Thai Peanut Crunch wrap kit; and Oberto’s Spicy Thai Style Chicken Breast Strips.

Other Asian snacks that could be hot (literally and figuratively) next year include Sriracha chips, reflecting the projected popularity of the hot and spicy trend in 2015. Another potential trend is Japanese matcha green tea that has less caffeine than green tea but contains more nutrient benefits, Food Product Design reported Oct. 30.


With hot and spicy projected to be among the top 10 culinary trends for 2015, according to The Sterling-Rice Group, that bodes well for Asian foods in the U.S. Another list from the Fancy Food Show this year provides further affirmation, as it has named the Thai chili sauce sriracha one of the top five trends.

Sriracha has already been introduced to the masses, as sandwich shop chain Subway has added a Sriracha Chicken and Sriracha Steak Melts to its menu. French’s Food has also launched an Asian Sweet Chili Sauce that a company official called, “a real success.”

The popularity of hot sauce is nothing new, as its revenue is increasing 9.3% per year and is forecast to rise by an average annual rate of 4.1% over the next five years, Prepared Foods reported Feb. 17. Furthermore, its production is among the fastest-growing industries in America due in part to the popularity of spicy foods from Asia and Africa. Other factors include the changing U.S. demographic, as well as health benefits of eating chili peppers.

Other types of sauces showing up more in the typical grocery aisle include fish sauce, ginger and wasabi, Gourmet Retailer reported Oct. 1.

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