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Chinese food is the UK’s favourite foreign dish

By Mike Stones+

20-Feb-2015
Last updated on 20-Feb-2015 at 14:50 GMT2015-02-20T14:50:34Z

Chinese food is the nation's favourite foreign dish
Chinese food is the nation's favourite foreign dish

Chinese food is the nation’s favourite foreign cuisine research organisation Mintel has revealed yesterday (February 19) – the start of the Chinese New Year.

Food inspired by the globe’s most populous country is Britain’s favourite both at home and in ethnic restaurants. Almost four in five (78%) Britons have eaten Chinese food at home in the past three months, with 12% eating it at least once a week, disclosed the researchers.

That compares with Indian food, eaten by 74% of Brits in the home over the same period and Mexican cuisine consumed by 48%.

Within Chinese food categories, soy sauce is the rising star with volume sales predicted to have reached 4Mkg last year, up from 3M kg in 2013. Sales now match volume sales of British favourites such as mint and apple sauce.

Mintel senior food analyst Richard Ford said soaring soy sales showcased an important trend. “The fact that soy sauce is now on a par with British favourites such as mint and apple, reflects growing consumer interest in oriental cuisine,” said Ford.

‘Interest in oriental cuisine’

“The ease with which supermarkets and restaurants have been able to translate Chinese dishes into ready meal and takeaway formats has been key to Chinese cuisine’s ability to endure in the UK market; despite the plethora of cuisines that are now available to Brits in supermarkets and restaurants, Chinese remains popular with a majority.”

Green tea bag sales have rocketed too, up by 30% between 2011 and 2013 from £23M to £30M. Nearly 10% of Briton’s now drink green tea at least once a day.

Chinese food is also dominating the foodservice market. More than three quarters (76%) of diners at ethnic restaurants or takeaways have visited a Chinese restaurant or takeaway, compared with 72% for Indian and 40% for Thai outlets.

“Overall, the ethnic restaurant and takeaway market holds real potential, the popularity of both Chinese and Indian takeaways and restaurants reflecting the cuisines' long-established position in the UK,” said Ford.

‘Useful point of difference’

“Those Chinese restaurants that lay on special menus or otherwise celebrate Chinese New Year should have a useful point of difference to help them attract diners.”

Chinese New Year
  • In China, hundreds of millions travel home for celebrations
  • Up to 3bn passenger trips to be made over the holidays, amounting to the world’s biggest annual human migration
  • Confusion about whether 2015 is dedicated to the sheep, ram, or goat. (The translation is slightly woolly)

Nearly a quarter (22%) of Britons who have used an ethnic restaurant or takeaway say that special menus to celebrate cultural or religious events would attract them.

While some may regard a Chinese takeaway as an unhealthy treat, only 14% of those who have visited an ethnic restaurant or takeaway viewed Chinese food in these venues as unhealthy.

“That a minority of consumers see ethnic restaurants as unhealthy is good news for the operators, suggesting that consumers have taken little heed of occasional news drawing attention to takeaways in particular as unhealthy,” said Ford.

Meanwhile, Malaysian and Caribbean ethnic foods could be rising stars this year, said Mintel. Caribbean food had benefited in recent years from the growing prominence of brands such as Levi Roots in the retail channel.

Malaysian cuisine has been gaining greater visibility in both the foodservice and retail sectors. 

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