Niagara Gazette

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October 17, 2013

Tacos overtaking burgers in the U.S. as demographics shift

(Continued)

Niagara Gazette — Which is to say, even all-American potato chips are increasingly being flavored with traditionally Hispanic ingredients. Care for Lay's "Chile Limon" chips? How about some "Queso Flavored" Ruffles? Maybe some Pringles Jalapeno? And of course there's the old standard — Nacho Cheese Doritos.

As testament to their popularity, the Tortilla Industry Association estimates that Americans consumed approximately 85 billion tortillas in 2000. And that's just tortillas straight up. It doesn't include chips.

"Having been raised on Wonder bread," Kabbani, the group's CEO, reminisced of his childhood days, "I didn't think that this could displace the sliced bread that was such an item of the American kitchen." But parents are picking healthier options to wrap their child's lunch every day, he said.

"When it comes to health, the Mexican cuisines cater better to that with salsas and vegetables," says Alexandra Aguirre Rodriguez, an assistant professor of marketing at Florida International University.

A healthier option many Americans are choosing is the tomato-based salsa, which beat ketchup sales 2-1, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm.

This isn't simply a matter of Hispanics buying more of their traditional foods.

At the grocer, Hispanic ingredients have moved well beyond the international aisle, sometimes commandeering entire aisles of their own or, increasingly, mingling freely with the rest of the products. Tortillas and taco kits outsell hamburgers and hot dog buns, according to the latest edition of Hispanic Foods and Beverages in the U.S.

Packaged food is also playing a major role.

"If I would look at 10 shopping carts, about half would have taco shells, the Americanized components to make enchiladas or tacos, or frozen chimichangas," says Terry Soto, president and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in the Hispanic market. There are more non-Hispanics buying those types of foods, she says.

"There is a larger segment of the population that wants the real thing. It's not so much the products becoming mainstream. It's about ethnic food becoming that much more of what we eat on a day-to-day basis."

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