As immigration continues to drive Canada’s population growth, Canadians are using food as a catalyst to embrace various cultures, as new research from Mintel reveals that three quarters (73 percent) of consumers like to experience other cultures through food. What’s more, nearly three in five (57 percent) Canadians are more open to trying ethnic foods now than they were a few years ago* as the majority (72 percent) of consumers turn to ethnic-inspired dishes to break the monotony at mealtime.

Ethnic-inspired foods such as Chinese (89 percent), Italian (84 percent) and Latin American/Mexican (82 percent) are the most commonly eaten by Canadians**, however some less prominent dishes are also being sought out. In fact, while just 20 percent of Canadians have tried African-inspired food, half (50 percent) are interested in doing so. Similarly, though just one third (32 percent) of consumers have eaten Southeast Asian food**, 44 percent are interested in trying a Southeast Asian dish.

61% of Canadians try ethnic-inspired foods at restaurants before preparing them at home

While consumers are curious about experiencing new ethnic cuisines, and 65 percent are open to trying ethnically inspired methods of preparing foods, a sizable minority of consumers are hesitant to create such dishes at home: 61 percent of consumers generally try ethnic-inspired foods at restaurants before preparing them at home. Further, more than one third (36 percent) of consumers agree that making ethnic foods is intimidating, with two in five (38 percent) agreeing that it is difficult finding ingredients to make ethnic inspired dishes.

“Canada’s population growth, primarily led by immigration, is affecting many aspects of Canadian culture, and our research shows that food is no exception. Consumers are willing to explore other cultures through ethnic-inspired foods and view ethnic dishes as a way to avoid mealtime boredom,” said Joel Gregoire, Senior Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. “While consumers are willing to try a wide range of ethnic dishes, intimidation over ingredients and cooking methods are getting in the way of consumers preparing these meals at home. Brands can appeal to hesitant Canadians by partnering with ethnic-inspired restaurants, as consumers trust the knowledge and expertise of restaurants when it comes to ethnic foods and may be receptive to retail ethnic-inspired products showcasing a foodservice influence.”

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With so many consumers finding it intimidating to cook ethnic food in the home, there is interest in ethnic-inspired portable and pre-packaged products. Nearly two in five consumers are interested in snack items with ethnic flavor (37 percent), peaking among 18-34 year olds (44 percent), who are also among those most likely to be interested in trying ethnic foods now compared to a few years ago* (61 percent).

Similarly, Canadians are interested in trying ethnic inspired food kits, pre-packaged ethnic-inspired meals that only require heating and portable meals more commonly eaten in other countries/regions (36 percent respectively). Another innovation that consumers show interest in exploring is fusion foods, with two in five (40 percent) interested in trying these offerings, which cross flavors from different countries/regions.

“Consumers are giving brands the green light to provide offerings that blend cultures and showcase that they are not entrenched in the old ways of cooking. Driven by younger, open-minded consumers, portable meals that are commonly found in other regions and ethnic-inspired snacking options are becoming more and more popular. As such, brands that are looking to innovate prepared meal offerings or offer satiating snacks have the opportunity to do so with ethnic-inspired flavors,” concluded Gregoire.

*Canadian adults surveyed by Mintel were asked if they agreed or disagreed with the statement “I’m more open to eating ethnic foods now than I was a few years ago”

**Three months ending November 2015

Press copies of the Ethnic Foods and Flavours Canada 2016 report and interviews with Joel Gregoire, Senior Food and Drink Analyst, are available on request from the press office.

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