What’s Driving the Global Foods Sales Boom?

The pandemic has changed the way Americans eat and shop, likely for the long term.

At the onset of COVID-19, many people grew tired of cooking every single meal at home and missed the global flavors they would typically experience eating out. As a result, they turned to prepared and frozen foods to bridge the gap between home-cooked meals and takeout. And based on the continued growth within the frozen food aisle, they’ve enjoyed the experience—authentic recipes, great flavor, and quality ingredients— and have continued to return for more.

Global foods on the rise

Globally influenced foods were extremely popular in 2020, according to Technomic’s 2020 Global Food and Beverage Consumer Trend Report. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, 80% of consumers said they ordered global foods from foodservice at least once a month—up from 65% in 2018. What’s more, 55% said they bought global foods from grocery stores’ prepared-foods sections at least once a month, up from 47% in 2018.

In conjunction with this trend, Technomic found that many consumers favor plant-based choices when they opt for global foods. Specifically, 30% of surveyed respondents said they prefer global flavors over traditional flavors in plant-based foods, and 28% expressed interest in trying global foods that use alternative proteins, including chickpeas.

Which flavors and foods are hottest?

Of course, global cuisines vary greatly, as do consumer preferences. Those preferences, in turn, affect what sells in grocery stores, so operators should keep up with what shoppers are interested in eating—and stock accordingly.

Turkish, regional Asian, African, and regional Italian flavors are appearing on restaurant menus and on store shelves with greater frequency. And while consumer interest in them is up at both places, many consumers are still gravitating to familiar options, including Chinese, Italian and Mexican cuisines. For grocery retailers, this means it’s crucial to make sure both options—familiar favorite foods, as well as exciting and unfamiliar choices—are available.

Consumers craving global flavors tend to seek them out in a variety of formats, including pasta, rice, pizza, salads, soups, sandwiches or wraps, and grain-based bowls. Lesser-known global foods, such as risotto, pierogi, and tabbouleh—are also growing in popularity.

This shift is readily apparent in both center store and frozen aisle grocery offerings. New options available for consumers include, but are not limited to, prepared foods and sauces, as well as spices and other ingredients with which they can create their own meals. For example, shoppers can now find African- and Middle Eastern-influenced options such as jollof rice, a dish made with long-grain rice, tomatoes, onions, spices, vegetables and other ingredients; cassava leaf soup (also known as saka saka or pondu); and global spices and spice blends like harissa and za’atar. Portuguese piri piri sauce—a perfectly spicy, flavorful addition to proteins and veggies—is also finding its way onto shelves.

As consumers show interest in newer, less familiar options—in addition to their tried-and-true favorites, the opportunity for grocers is rich. It’ll be key going forward to offer not just one or the other, but rather a mix of both the classics and new, exciting ingredients and prepared options.

Choosing the right brand and product mix

Stocking foods that reflect these trends is crucial to sales success. Amy’s Kitchen, a longtime leader in organic frozen meals and canned soups, has a deep portfolio of products that not only satisfy consumers’ desire for convenient, flavorful, globally influenced cuisine but also suit their dietary restrictions and preferences. The Amy’s lineup includes, among other things, a vegan Mexican casserole made with organic corn and black beans, a vegan cheese and spinach ravioli, and a sweet and sour grain bowl with a spicy Szechuan sauce. And later this year, Amy’s will be adding to their soup line with three new plant-based offerings, including two East-African inspired.

Industry experts expect plant-based options featuring global flavors to continue their upward trajectory this year. Make sure shoppers can find the foods and flavors they’re looking for—from familiar classics to adventurous new dishes—by stocking shelves with brands and products consumers know, love and trust. To learn more about the growing global flavors trend and what it means for retailers, visit tradeinsights.amys.com.