CHICAGO — Ethnic cuisine is on the rise, and two-thirds of consumers who eat ethnic food at home say authentic or traditional flavors are the most important factor when buying or eating ethic food, according to Mintel.

“If flavor fanatics are going to spend their hard-earned money and time visiting an ethnic restaurant or buying international foods to prepare at home, increasingly, they want it to be the real deal,” said David Browne, senior analyst at Mintel. “Therefore, products positioned as such have a greater likelihood of finding favor with consumers.”

Ethnic food enthusiasts also said all-natural, premium/gourmet or artisanal, and reduced fat are other important considerations when buying these foods.

“This interest in genuine ethnic fare aligns with a broader consumer trend, ‘The Real Thing,’ where we see consumers continually set a higher bar for what they consider authentic,” said Alexandra Smith, director of consumer trends at Mintel. “Today's American has much greater exposure to diverse cultures than an American 20 years ago. And as once-exotic things like sushi or yoga become mainstream, we seek new, more niche markers of cultural authenticity.”

Mintel said 70% of respondents made Italian food at home in the past 30 days, but Italian food is so commonplace anymore it is hardly considered ethnic. In addition, 63% said they have made Mexican food with 46% making Chinese foods. Twenty-nine per cent of cooks at home said one type of food wasn’t enough and decided to mix elements from various culinary traditions.

Eighty-one per cent of respondents said they ate ethnic food away from home during the month before the survey, and the five most popular ethnic cuisines on the menu are Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Pan-Asian and Japanese. Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food also is growing in popularity.