UK food and drink manufacturers should be looking to take advantage of the continuing boom in the ethnic foods market, particularly on the export front, according to research out today.

Food from Britain (FFB), the market development consultancy for British food and drink companies, said that whilst the UK has an ethnic food market worth £1billion, saturation of some market segments is increasingly pushing manufacturers to seek overseas opportunities for growth.

“The recent study of the ready meals and ethnic food market has revealed that there are a number of opportunities for British food manufacturers in Europe,” the study said.

In particular Mexican food is proving particularly popular in the Spanish and Swedish markets. Sweden is now Europe’s highest per capita consumer of Mexican food, and in Germany, Indian ready meals are gaining ground as UK players such as Noon enter the market.

Patricia Czerniak of FFB Germany said: “Germans see ethnic food as an interesting new taste profile, but the range available is still relatively restricted and therefore offers good opportunities for new suppliers. It would seem that Germans consider ethnic food to be the basis for innovation within the food industry. In particular, Thai and Indian are considered to be future food trends.”

In addition, Germany’s cooking sauces market is growing close to 30%.

Ethnic food in Spain is a fast growing sector, increasing by 30% year on year, the research showed. In Belgium the ethnic food market is progressing strongly with a number of new cuisines entering the market, due in part to the international population and the perceived ‘trendy’ character of the ethnic food market.

The fastest developing markets for ready meals are the Netherlands and Belgium, with the Netherlands seeing double digit growth within both the frozen and chilled ready meals market. However, its authentic ethnic food market is growing more slowly, offering shelf-space to just a few branded propositions, with Oriental, Italian and Mexican proving to be the most popular cuisines.

Chris Brockman, FFB’s head of research and consultancy, said: “Affluent Europeans are travelling abroad to what they see as ethnic environments, bringing back from their holidays memories of exotic dishes and supermarket buyers have been quick to seize on this to extend ready meal ranges and their cooking sauces. As the UK is recognised as a world leader in ready meals and ethnic food, producers can use their expertise to great advantage and opportunities to export to Europe are very high with retailers increasingly looking to source authentic products.”