Americans’ food preferences are influenced by immigrants

The influx of immigrants into the U.S. has had many profound effects on U.S. culture. Employment trends, the education system and new laws have all seen changes, but one other major influence immigration has had is on the American palate. With changing demographics affecting consumption, food companies have been experimenting with new ways to introduce foods native to different countries that are familiar staples to many immigrants in the U.S.

According to international market research firm Mintel Group, sales of ethnic foods in the U.S. rose by $9 billion between 2010 and 2012, and they predict more than 20 percent in growth by 2017. In order to tap into the growing population of Latino and Asian consumers, U.S. food companies are producing items with hotter spices, different grains and textures, and fruit flavors. New packaging is being introduced into the marketplace as well to appeal to the diverse population and their differing appetites. According to studies, the sales of ethnic foods, from Mediterranean to Middle Eastern are expected to increase, continuing the trend that has been occurring for years.

Campbell’s is adopting this trend, adding coconut and lemongrass to some of their soups. Mexican sodas are now found in most major food retailers, and Nestle is planning to produce a dulce de leche pie, made with a chocolate product popular in Latin countries. Integrating immigrant culture and foods into the American lifestyle has led to many reports that the U.S. palate is more open to exotic flavors and ingredients than ever before.

Multicultural neighborhoods, increased opportunities for international travel, and even TV shows showcasing cuisines from around the world have all contributed to the general acceptance of and demand for ethnic options. The influence of immigrants on the food in the U.S. is not limited to taste, however. A variety of foods native to the countries of many immigrants contain more fruits and vegetables, raising awareness of the importance of dietary health and wellness. Even cooking techniques are often more healthful, and are beginning to influence the younger generation of Americans.