“We’ve ended up with a consumer that is young but more
travelled and well-versed in the world than any other group of
Americans except for wealthy retirees,” says Jack Acree, EVP of
Stamford, Conn.-based Saffron Road Foods. “What they want
more than anything else is authenticity. Maybe that costs you a
few grams of fat and there’s a little bit more in the product, but
that’s not a downer for them if it delivers on the flavor and the
authenticity that they’re looking for.”
Acree adds that while health is a hot topic on modern shop-
pers’ minds, the definition of “better-for-you” has changed.
Consumers are more worried about the ingredients in a product
and where they are sourced from than they are about a product
being “low calorie” or “low fat.” Acree says, for example, many
consumers will choose a product that has a higher fat content
and uses antibiotic-free chicken over a product that is low-fat but
uses chicken that has been pumped full of antibiotics.
“They’re not looking at the nutrition panel nearly as much as
they’re looking at the ingredient panel,” he says. “Speaking to
authenticity and what kind of ingredients you’re using in there to
get the end-product, that’s the hallmark.”
Joe Perez, SVP of Jersey City, N.J.-based Goya Foods, says
the company can help assist retailers in creating better-for-you
sections at store level that feature international flavors, such as
nutritious Spanish staples and specialty items.
“Millennials take convenience, quality and health as a must,
while still wanting indulgent items on occasion,” he says.
According to Chicago-based Mintel, savory flavors are the
stars of the international aisle, with 57 percent of consumers
seeking options that fall into this category. Hot and spicy items
are the next most-craved international flavor.
“Heat and spice is a current trend,” says Rachel P. Cullen,
president and CEO of Dinuba, Calif.-based Ruiz Food Products,
maker of the El Monterey Brand. “Years ago, El Monterey intro-
duced burritos with more spice and heat. The American palate
was not ready to experiment. Today, consumers can’t seem to
Cullen says flavors like the company’s El Monterey Jalapeno,
Bean and Three Cheese Burrito, Cheesy Pepperjack Tornados,
Egg, Cheese & Jalapeno Breakfast Burrito and Southwest
Chipotle Chicken Signature Burrito help satisfy this craving.
Consumers have been going crazy for Mexican flavors in
general, say observers. Retail sales of the international food
types outlined in Mintel’s International Food Trends: Spotlight
on Flavor, U.S., March 2017 report reached $10 billion in 2016.
This represents a 3. 4 percent increase over 2015 totals. The
bulk of these sales are made up by the Mexican/Hispanic segment, which represents 60 percent of the category. The report
also shows that snacks drive sales in the Mexican/Hispanic and
Mediterranean/Middle Eastern food segments, while Asian/
Indian food sees more activity from center-of-plate items.
“As it relates to frozen Mexican foods, the consumer’s desire
for convenience, quality, great taste and value remain the most
important trends,” Cullen says. “Consumers enjoy Mexican food
and want to be able to enjoy it at home. Their busy lifestyle,
however, doesn’t lend itself to preparing meals or snacks from
scratch. After work, afternoons and evenings are filled with soccer
practice, dance lessons, piano lessons and more for their kids.”
El Monterey also rolled out two empanada flavors: Beef,
Mozzarella and Monterey Jack Cheese with Mild Jalapeños and
White Meat Chicken with Cheddar and Mozzarella Cheese.
Given that 44 percent of international food eaters expressed
interest in trying snacks from other countries, Mintel asked consumers to select from a range of snack items from other countries
that they would be interested in trying. In the research, consumers showed a preference for flavors and formats that were familiar to them, such as chips. Thirty-five percent of the consumers