Meridian Star

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October 17, 2013

Changing demographics influencing taste buds

(Continued)

JACKSON —

Why has rice resisted the death of the side dish? It's one of the traditions millennial Hispanics have held onto, says Seifer.

And that's just the start. Rice also was the top-rated side dish in a National Restaurant Association chefs survey of what's hot. The same survey also found chefs touting taquitos as appetizers; ethnic-inspired breakfast items such as chorizo scrambled eggs; exotic fruits including guava; queso fresco as an ingredient; and Peruvian cuisine.

The influence goes deeper than the numbers. Like Italian food before it, Hispanic food enjoys broad adoption because it is easy for Americans to cook at home. Few Americans will roll their own sushi, but plenty are happy to slap together a quesadilla. Hispanic ingredients also are more common than those of Indian or other Asian cuisines. Ditto for the equipment. While nearly every American home has a skillet for sauteing (a common cooking method in Hispanic cuisines), only 28 percent of homes have a wok, according to NPD.

All of this has meant a near complete loss of ethnicity for many Hispanic foods. Americans now more closely associate tacos, tortilla chips and burritos with fast food than with Hispanic culture.

"The Hispanic market isn't the only one driving that taste profile," says Tom Dempsey, CEO of the Snack Food Association. "As manufacturers become more innovative on how to use tortilla chips, that will continue to take a larger share of the snack marketplace."

Tortilla dollar sales increased at a faster pace in supermarket sales than potato chips this year (3.7 percent vs. 2.2 percent over a 52-week period), according to InfoScan Reviews, a retail tracking service.

Though potato chips continue to be the top-selling salted snack in terms of pounds sold, "the growth of tortilla chips is a little bit more robust than the growth of potato chips," Dempsey says. "And both tortilla chips and potato chips are reflecting greater influence from the Hispanic taste profile than in previous years."

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