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Ethnic Food and Drink is a fast growing category, with the supermarkets’ and Co-ops’ World Foods sections becoming ‘must-visit’ destinations for more and more shoppers, attracting big brands and budgets to match.

chazThe reasons are simple – Britain is becoming ‘a mosaic of peoples and cultures’ in the words of Noor Ali, Morrison’s World Food Manager. At the same time our TV chefs and cookery columnists are including ever more exotic ingredients in their recipes, leading more mainstream shoppers down the World Foods aisles.

The spices of the East came here first with the people returning from the Crusades. Today successive incoming populations bring with them their cuisines from home, and their tastes and flavours are absorbed into the mainstream. Household name UK-based suppliers with a depth of knowledge and expertise like Wing Yip, Geeta’s, Grace Foods and Tropical Sun, plus a host of specialist importers bring exotic spices and cooking ingredients from China, India, the Caribbean and elsewhere direct to our supermarkets, Co-ops and convenience store chains.

British food used to be dismissed by the rest of the world as bland and stodgy but now that’s out of date. According to Mintel, the nation’s tastebuds are becoming more adventurous, with over two fifths of ethnic food users continually looking for interesting new cuisines.

In a Food Network UK poll, Chinese stir-fry has replaced chicken tikka masala as Britain’s favourite dish, and is the UK’s most frequently cooked meal in the UK. Nine out of ten of Brits’ favourite international meals are Asian, and Asian is firmly part of the nation’s staple diet as families opt for international cuisine over British dishes three out of seven nights of the week.

Meanwhile World Foods is an ever-changing marketplace. According to Noor Ali we can expect to see strong growth in Eastern European food, from such places as Czech Republic, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary, following on from Polish food’s arrival a few years back. We can also expect to see more foods from Africa, all leading to a further increase in mainstream consumers experimenting with new flavours and ingredients.

So, the big question – could World Foods eventually merge into individual mainstream sections such as sauces and spices? Noor Ali doesn’t think dual-siting would be particularly helpful for Morrison’s shoppers just yet, as her shoppers are familiar with our store layouts, and don’t tend to like too much change. “But if our customers requested it, we would certainly look into it.”

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