Mexican food displaced Italian as the favorite of young Americans

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Mexican food put an end to the reign of pizza and pasta on the palate of the United States population. A recent market study showed that food preferences are leaving nonna’s recipes aside in favor of tacos and quesadillas.

An analysis of 4,500 new menu items launched at major chain restaurants in 2022 by consulting firm Datassential found that Americans crave Latino-inspired meals that taste spicy and cheesy.

The 10 fastest-growing items on American menus include birria (a Mexican meat stew originating in Jalisco), chicken taco salad and dishes made with Tajín (a condiment of chili peppers, lime and sea salt), according to Datassential.

In the drinks section, last year’s most popular addition was the Ranch Water, which is a refreshing cocktail made with tequila, lime, and sparkling water. Tequila is very close to dethroning vodka as the country’s best-selling spirit, and margaritas are already the most popular cocktail.

Analysts believe this is an important finding because changing demographics in the United States are changing their food preferences.

The US Hispanic population reached 62.1 million in 2020, an increase of 23% over the previous decade that outpaced the nation’s overall population growth of 7%, according to Pew Research data.

Millennials were “the first generation to prefer Mexican cuisine over the Italian cuisine,” and Gen Z is “the first generation to prefer both Mexican and Chinese cuisine over Italian cuisine,” says Mike Kostyo, an analyst at Datassential.

Kostyo explained that young people are growing up with very different cultural models than those that existed 20 or 30 years ago, and the restaurant industry has realized this.

Previously, most restaurants incorporated pasta and pizza as popular and fun menu items but now they tend to add tacos and burritos to please their clientele.

And although young people are beginning to prefer Tex-Mex and Latin food over the Italian, that does not mean that the delicious pastas and pizzas do not have their mourners. They remain very popular and remain in almost all major chain offerings.

Another cuisine that has skyrocketed in popularity among young people is Chinese and Asian food in general, perhaps due to the continued exposure of young people to video games and K-pop.

Kostyo says it’s enough to look at university canteens and cafeterias to see where the trends are heading. In all of them you will see that there is “a bowl with an Asian recipe and you will probably see a taco and a burrito”.

Datassential owns a database of 40,000 food and drink items at major chain restaurants. To conduct his market research, they asks consumers to rate new additions based on menu description, image, and price.

Consumers rate dishes in categories such as “uniqueness” and whether they would like to try them. Restaurateurs use the scores to “proof the concept” of new dishes or revamp outdated offerings.

Cheese was the #1 ingredient added to new menu items last year. “Fresh” was the most popular menu adjective, beating out “delicious,” “real,” “rich,” and “homemade.”

Another interesting fact is that consumers are willing to try new flavors. There is increased demand for weird flavor combinations and sweet and savory mixes, partly driven by younger consumers looking to experiment.

The star launch was Baskin-Robbins’ “Spicy ‘n Spooky” ice cream, which launched for a limited time before Halloween, made with pepper, dark and white chocolate and orange flakes.

Variations in demographics and generational differences in eating patterns have been game changers for American menus. And Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) like Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2013) have been the great catalysts for that great change.

A Report on Rice Consumption by Occasions for USA Rice showed that millennials are the biggest consumers of rice, accounting for 35 percent of all consumption, while Generation Z continues to rise steadily their rice consumption as this demographic grows.

“Essentially, what we’re seeing here are demographic shifts resulting in shifts away from traditional childhood favorites and adult comfort food toward new consumer preferences,” said Cameron Jacobs, director of national advocacy for USA Rice

“The changing consumer palate toward rice-focused cuisines is obviously positive for the industry, and rice use should grow further as these groups continue to age and increase their purchasing power.”

Source: Yahoo News