Sorry Italian food lovers. America is about to have a new favorite ethnic food.
"This was the first time that we have ever seen...this change happen in a generation.”
Italian food has been a staple of the American diet for the past 200 years. We eat pizza when we’re having a party. When it’s time for a romantic dinner, we break out the checkered tablecloth and sip some wine while enjoying a fine bolognese sauce. Heck, one of the best characters on “The Sopranos” was the food.
However, even though Italian food is such a big part of American culture, it appears as though it’s going to be taking a backseat to other ethnic foods in the near future.
According to Datassential, a Chicago-based market research firm, millennials (ages 27 to 42) rank Mexican food as their favorite ethnic cuisine over Italian, and Gen Z (8 to 23) agrees, with Chinese in second and Italian in third. Baby Boomers and Gen X still say that Italian is numero uno.
“This was the first time that we have ever seen, since we've been studying consumers, this change happen in a generation,” Mike Kostyo, associate director of Datassential, the Chicago-based market research firm that released the report, told VOA News. “I think the most surprising thing was just how passionate Gen Z’s affinity for Mexican cuisine was…and to see that happen in a relatively short amount of time. I mean, that was huge.”
A big reason for America’s sudden palette change is the country’s changing demographics. Latinos are among the fastest-growing population segments in the United States, having nearly doubled in size since 2000. So not only are more people eating Mexican food because of their culture of origin, but people who aren’t of Latino descent are being exposed to the cuisine and falling in love.
Another reason is social media, where younger people are exposed to different foods because people love sharing pictures of what they eat.
Chinese people are also well-represented in the U.S. and are the third largest origin group among U.S. immigrants, behind Mexico and India.
America’s growing love of Mexican and Chinese foods is another example of the beautiful benefit of living in a country where people are all about sharing their cultures.
Enjoying the tastes of other countries and regions is a lovely experience and it also opens the doors to greater cultural understanding. What starts with food can lead to an appreciation of language, music, fashion, and history. One of the biggest reasons why people travel to other countries is to enjoy their cuisine, and once their stomachs are full, appreciation of their culture is sure to follow.
“Where before maybe the go-to comfort food item, or classic traditional item, might have been a pizza, if you were opening a classic, everybody-loves-it restaurant...it would have been a pizza operation,” Kostyo says. “I think in the future, it's going to be a taco operation. That will be the go-to.”
Italian food's declining popularity in America isn’t a knock on the cuisine itself but more of a positive note in the history of American culture. As our population becomes more diverse, so do our food choices, leading to a broader tapestry of experiences for us all to enjoy.