Ethnic food trend hots up markets for Tabasco

By Mike Stones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Tabasco sauce

The global popularity of spicy foods, combined with the trend towards ethnic foods in the US, makes Tabasco pepper sauce poised for growth, claims its manufacturer the McIlhenny Company.

In this exclusive video, filmed on a bayou near the firm’s production facility at Avery Island, Stephen Romero, the firm’s vice president sales, told that global sales were driven by national food preferences.

Japan is the biggest market for Tabasco – with sales of about 100,000 bottles a year – where the sauce is popular with noodles and pasta.

Norwegian consumers’ predilection for spicy pizza had significantly boosted Tabasco sales in the country. Surprisingly, Norway has the world's highest per capital consumption of pizza.

Similarly, Canadians’ thirst for Bloody Caesar – a variation of Bloody Mary featuring vodka, clam and tomato juice – made the country one of the biggest export markets for Tabasco pepper sauce.

Many consumers around the world have enjoyed Tabasco sauces without knowing it, since chefs often incorporated them in restaurant menus, said Romero. Deliveries to food manufacturers accounted for about 5% of total sales.

Flagship brand

Tabasco Pepper Sauce, the manufacturer’s flagship brand, together with the other 11 products in its portfolio, are supplied in quantities from 30ml sachets to 50-gallon drums.

The growing popularity of ethnic foods in the US was also boosting demand, said Romero. Uncle Sam’s increasingly sophisticated food offer – spanning Mexican, Thai and Chinese, together will old favourites such as Tex Mex chicken wings (known as buffalo wings) – was said to be paying off in terms of increased orders.

Meanwhile, Mintel confirmed that its other ethnic food category – dominated by cajun and creole cuisine with its fondness for hot flavours such as Tabasco sauce – had seen sales growth of 26% between 2007–12.

It predicted that the category – which also included Hawaiian, Carribbean and Eastern European Foods – would achieve growth of 31% between 2012-17, according to Mintel/Symphony IRI data.

Mexican cuisine

Mexican cuisine leads Mintel’s list of ethnic foods with US sales of $5907M. The category was followed by Asian food with sales of $1625M and Mediterranean food with sales of $769M.

“In light of a US population that is becoming, and will become, more ethnic, it is likely that the ethnic food category will continue to be successful, provided manufacturers find the right balance of price, authenticity, and familiarity,”​ according to Mintel.

It also highlighted the comments of Cari Price, corporate chef at FoodIQ: “I think ethnic food must have a balance of both authenticity and familiarity. Familiarity lessens the risk just enough to be willing to give new foods a try and authenticity provides the adventure and excitement of experiencing a new food culture.

“I think the average American is becoming familiar with authentic foods through travel and food-focused television.”

More on Tabasco's exports is available here​.

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