Where in the world are we looking for meal inspiration?

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

World cuisine offerings are expanding with an ever-growing range of flavours and meal options available throughout foodservice and grocery retail outlets. Have our tastes or behaviours been changing here in Britain and from what areas of the world do popular cuisines originate?

Interest in world cuisines

Image of nachos and other dishes being sharedMintel reported that 88 per cent of Brits have eaten at least one world cuisine at home (three months to November 2016, excludes takeaways), demonstrating it’s a popular meal choice for British consumers. Chinese and Indian were found to be the most commonly eaten, as may be expected of these well-established cuisines. Appetite for world cuisines has continued to grow in recent times, with Mexican (also Tex-Mex), Thai, American and Caribbean cuisines becoming increasingly popular, reflecting a desire to be more adventurous with food. Kantar Worldpanel usage data shows that, increasingly, GB consumers are turning to dish-based meals rather than the traditional meat and two veg, a trend which is supported by the rising demand for world cuisines, many of which suit a dish format. 

The range of cuisines and flavours accessible through foodservice and retail formats is expanding, influencing everything from street food and restaurant outlets through to retail food-to-go offerings, demonstrating the mainstream appeal of influences from cuisines around the world.

Mintel suggests younger people are more adventurous with cooking world cuisines at home. It is likely that this is partly linked to societal change, with younger people much more likely to have had the opportunity to travel and to have grown up in a more diverse British society than previous generations, enabling greater exposure to different meal types and flavours.

Convenient products can overcome uncertainty

Despite their appeal, some barriers remain for in-home preparation as some of the qualities which are attractive to consumers for eating world cuisines can also be off-putting when considering cooking them at home, according to Mintel’s research. For example, being uncertain about what to expect in terms of taste, such as flavour or spiciness, can be a deterrent for some. This can be further exaggerated by other factors, like long lists of unfamiliar ingredients which can cause some consumers to feel unsure about what they are buying.

The impact of these concerns has been tackled through the development of simple and convenient products. Ready meals, cooking sauces and meal accompaniments can be found in most grocers, enabling consumers to easily produce these cuisines at home. These often provide all the necessary spices, flavourings or ingredients, along with easy-to-follow cooking instructions, helping to mitigate some of the uncertainty a shopper may face.

This type of product development has helped to make world cuisines more accessible to consumers and is thought to be a significant contributor to growth.

Product availability in-store

The Grocer reports that the world food category as a whole was up 6.5 per cent in value year on year, reaching £1.7 billion. Furthermore, English and Italian are reported to be the highest value cuisines from a grocery retail perspective, followed by Indian and Chinese.

At-home consumption has benefited the increasing availability of world cuisine food items. IGD defines world foods as ‘food found in the world food aisle such as Mexican, Polish, Kosher, Indian and Japanese’. As well as meal kits and sauces, products influenced by world cuisines exist across a range of other product categories in-store, from chilled or frozen ready meals through to flavour combinations featured in food-to-go offerings, highlighting their broad adaptability and appeal.

Room for growth

World cuisines have become a staple part of the British menu and it appears likely that our interest in world cuisines is here to stay. Increased marketing activity has already been seen to mark key festival and religious dates in grocery retailers, emphasising their recognition of the value in this category. With the success of convenient products and appetite for variety in our everyday meal choices, it seems likely that this is a category where we will continue to see growth.

Understanding popular dishes from each cuisine style and their component ingredients could provide an opportunity to identify areas for AHDB sector products such as red meats and potatoes to be included in world cuisine recipes, if not already featured.