Excel in ethnic cuisines

July 13, 2012

Supermarkets should spotlight more foods from many parts of the world to strengthen ethnic appeals.

The surges of Latino and Asian populations in America have focused attention on their cuisines as growth opportunities.

Yet a few leading supermarkets today are taking ethnic foods further, as they attempt to marry three mega-trends:  the rise in home meal preparation, the need to relieve food tedium, and the internationalization of the American palate inspired largely by TV cooking shows. 

For example, operators such as Publix, HEB, Central Market, PCC Natural Markets and Jungle Jim’s teach how to prepare specific dishes from the Thai, Peruvian, Japanese, Indian and Mediterranean regions, according to a Supermarket News account.

The Lempert Report sees these cooking classes as ways for stores to burnish their image as food authorities, and create competitive distance between them and many kinds of discount food sellers capturing share today. Especially when stores display the necessary ingredients in the demo area, people can buy impulsively filled with confidence from the cooking instruction.

Stores can gain more points for ethnic authenticity when they import known brands from their shoppers’ native homelands, and sign and organize them so they are easy to find.

Other ideas we suggest:  Fresh meat departments could include preferred ethnic cuts, and bilingual butchers could help cement relationships with local shopper bases. Also, stores could partner with food-truck operators that offer ethnic specialties, either by allowing them to sell their distinctive foods in-store on a scheduled event basis, or perhaps co-branding a prepared-foods station with them on an ongoing basis.

With ethnic foods, success comes being authentic to people of many nationalities, as well as drawing the interest of Americans who until now have been used to conventional flavors but are motivated to learn about and try the world of ethnic foods that surround them.