Cuisine from the world’s largest continent, Asia, has always held a share of the United States food-service market. But over the last decade, Asian inspired food has become one of the favorites throughout all markets. As the world continues its globalization, individuals everywhere are exposed to foods that they otherwise would not have been.
According to food research organization Technomic, restaurants serving Asian food have grown (in number of locations) 10.3% and 8.1% in 2013 and 2014 respectively, making it the fastest growing food category. To put that in perspective, burgers grew by 2.0% and pizza by 2.7% in 2014. “Baby Boomers did not grow up asking their parents to go out to ramen or sushi, but for Generation Y, this is normal,” said VP of Sales and Marketing at CHD Expert, a food-service database (via The Arizona Republic).
Whether its Banh Mi from Vietnam, sushi/sashimi from Japan, Pad Thai from Thailand, barbeque from Korea, or noodles from China; every country from Southeast Asia has a cuisine to offer the world. While food is the driving factor, Asian alcohol share in the United States is also growing with increased consumption of beers like Sapporro and Asahi, and liquors such as sake and soju cocktails.
The Asian eateries in the United States have traditionally been “mom-and-pop” locations. This has drastically changed over the last several years with restaurants like Pei Wei, P.F. Changs, Panda Express, Kona Grill, and Noodles & Company focusing on this growing segment. “(Chains) are absolutely the way food is going” says Lori Hashimoto, chef and owner of a Japanese restaurant in Phoenix (via The Arizona Republic). Restaurants that are traditionally not known for Asian food are even trying to offer dishes focused on providing some type of Asian cuisine. Panera Bread, a bakery that offers sandwiches, soups, and salads, is running a national marketing campaign advertising their new “Soba Bowls” which come in 4 different options and are native to Japan. Soba is a thin noodle made of buckwheat flour and included in a broth topped traditionally with a protein like chicken.
Popular culture traditionally dictates trends in the U.S., but rapid growth of Asian food has been a grassroots effort. Starting in small, Japanese or Chinese populated cities, and provided only through small restaurants or retail centers. Now, with the new attention of large domestic chains; Asian food is here to stay. The quality of food, differentiation of options, and increased availability will continue to grow the Asian cuisine market share within the United States.