Retail Foodservice

Asian Flavors Permeate Retail Foodservice

Photograph: Shutterstock

Ethnic foods are taking up more real estate in supermarket aisles, so it should be no surprise to see more diversity—particularly Asian dishes—on the prepared foods and in-store restaurant side as well.

Historically, Italian, Mexican and Chinese have been the go-to global cuisines for many Americans, but younger consumers and more diverse generations are driving demand for alternatives, including Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese, Filipino and more. 

Younger consumers drive demand

Gen Z and younger millennials are especially fond of ethnic foods: 54% of Gen Zers and 52% of younger millennials say they are more interested in trying ethnic flavors than they were a year ago, according to Technomic’s 2017 Flavor report. 

And those younger, more diverse shoppers find a diverse menu appealing. According to the Flavor report, 43% of consumers aged 18- to 34-years old say they like dishes that feature a fusion of flavors from more than one type of cuisine. That gives supermarkets a potential leg up on restaurants, where mixing and matching of ethnic styles isn’t always feasible.

Globally diverse food bars allow customers to enjoy a variety of Asian favorites, from steamed edamame to dumplings, short ribs, spring rolls, sesame noodles, rice and noodle bowls and Asian-style slaw. Specialized bars featuring Asian staples like ramen and poke are popping up as well. In Portland, Oreg., Zupan’s Markets installed a make-your-own poke bar that stocks five kinds of poke and all the fixings.

More options in retail foodservice and grocery

These days, a full-fledged sushi preparation station is a mainstay in the average upscale grocery store, with both grab-and-go and made-to-order choices for shoppers.

Wow Bao, a Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises Asian restaurant concept that specializes in buns, dumplings and bowls, has branched out from a handful of supermarket locations to dozens across three states. 

Stir-fry stations at higher-volume stores tap into a range of Asian styles. At select Giant Eagle locations, customers can build their own stir-fry bowl at the Sizzling Wok station. Shoppers fill a bowl with a protein, vegetables and one of seven sauces, choose a heat level and turn it over to a wok chef for prep. Among the choices are pad thai, pho or Thai spicy curry chicken.

Retail grab-and-go options have proliferated as well. Wegman’s offers a lengthy Taste of Asia menu with choices such as: pot stickers and dumplings, fried rice, pepper steak with vegetable udon, a Thai crispy chicken with jasmine rice bowl, sesame chicken with vegetable lo mein, a Kung Pao chicken or shrimp meal power meal and a grilled tofu/tempeh power meal with garlic sauce.

From mainstream supermarkets to boutique gourmet groceries, demand for Asian flavors is shaping retail foodservice across the board.

This post is sponsored by Blount Fine Foods