x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Salsa not ketchup now flavouring America

With Hispanics making up more than a quarter of the US population today — and growing fast — experts say this change is dramatically flavouring the American culinary experience.

MIAMI // Salsa overtaking ketchup as America’s No 1 condiment was just the start.

These days, tortillas outsell burger and hot dog buns; sales of tortilla chips trump potato chips; and tacos and burritos have become ubiquitous,

Welcome to the taste of American food in 2013.

As immigrant and minority populations rewrite American demographics, the nation’s collective menu is reflecting this flux, as it always has. And it goes beyond the mainstreaming of once rare ethnic ingredients, from soy sauce to jalapeños.

This is a rewrite of the American menu at the macro level, an evolution of whole patterns of how people eat. The difference this time? The biggest culinary voting bloc is Hispanic.

“When you think about pizza and spaghetti, it’s the same thing,” says Jim Kabbani, CEO of the Tortilla Industry Association. “People consider them American, not ethnic. It’s the same with tortillas.”

With Hispanics making up more than a quarter of the US population today – and growing fast – experts say this change is dramatically flavouring the American culinary experience. Hispanic foods and beverages were an US$8 billion (Dh29.38bn) market in the last year, according to consumer research firm Packaged Facts.

And that is influencing how all Americans eat. Doritos, after all, are just tarted-up tortilla chips.

As the entire menu of the American diet gets rewritten, the taste is getting spicier, with salsa and chipotle popping into the mainstream vernacular. And onto your dinner table.

From quest fresco to chorizo, traditional Hispanic foods – or even just the flavours of them – are making their way into Americans’ everyday diet, particularly among the millennials – those born between the early 1980s and the turn of the century.

“They are looking for products that are not necessarily big brands anymore,” says Michael Bellas, chairman of the Beverage Marketing Corporation. “They like brands that have character. They are looking for authenticity and purity, but they are also looking for new experiences.”

For example, popular among the millennials and other generations on the West Coast is the Mexican soda Jarritos, which boasts real fruit flavours ranging from mango to guava. The company’s site showcases a collage of photos taken by Generation Y soda drinkers. Brightly coloured sodas pop through their clear vintage-looking bottles. And the bottle caps share a simple message: Que buenos son (They’re so good).

Another Hispanic beverage making ever more rounds in households across America is tequila.

In 2006, nearly 107 million of litres of tequila were exported to the US, a 23 per cent increase over 2005.

The influence goes deeper than the numbers. Like Italian food before it, Hispanic food enjoys broad adoption because it is easy for Americans to cook at home. Few Americans will roll their own sushi, but plenty are happy to slap together a quesadilla.

Associated Press