Asian Markets Not Just For Asians

Feb 23, 2005
George Anderson

By George Anderson

Go to Assi Plaza, a 54,000-square-foot Asian market in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, and you will find many shoppers of Asian heritage. Depending on the day, you are likely to find an equal number are not.

Store manager Jae Y. Lee estimates 40 percent of his customers are Korean, 25 percent are Chinese or Japanese and 30 percent are Caucasian.

“This is really an international market,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “I want to make this shop for the community. American people never feel they’re a minority here.”

Karen Brown, senior vice president at Food Marketing Institute, said the increase in the number of non-Asians shopping Asian markets is easy to understand. “They enjoy the food and want to prepare those dishes themselves,” she said.

Regardless of ancestry, shoppers are drawn to markets such as Assi Plaza for a very simple reason. They carry items not found in mainstream markets.

Ella Chung, a shopper at Assi Plaza, said, “The variety they have here is incomparable. We like to buy the produce and fish.”

Moderator’s Comment: What does the growing Asian population in suburbs and the growth of Asian markets mean for mainstream grocers?

Asian markets are becoming more common in suburban areas as new immigrants and second and third generation Asian Americans move from cities. The Census
Bureau predicts that the U.S. Asian and Pacific Islander population will double in size to 24 million by 2010.

George Anderson – Moderator

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5 Comments on "Asian Markets Not Just For Asians"

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Tom Zatina
Tom Zatina
16 years 13 days ago

I think that Pamela hit the nail on the head with her comment that “consumers of all types are expanding their horizons and their tastes.” Add to that the fact that it can be fun and is also quite trendy to sample and embrace these tasty “new” foods.

David Livingston
16 years 13 days ago
Asian cultures stretch from Hawaii to India. If you think Hispanc marketing is hard, try figuring out the Asian market. I don’t know of any mainstream grocers who have figured it out. It still may not be profitable to commit to serving this market. Most supermarket chains still don’t have a clue how to market to the African American community. On the “Per Capita Expenditure” software that is marketed to supermarket companies, there are calculations made for Black and Hispanic consumers but none for Asian. I think this is because no one is bothering to research it. There are plenty of specialty chains, mostly on the American and Canadian west coast that have done a fine job. Vancouver, Seattle, and San Francisco have a nice array of Asian stores. Yesterday, I realized how confusing this market is. I went to a small Chinese buffet – expecting Chinese food. They served Pan Asian cuisine and about 90% of the patrons were Asian Indians who worked at General Electric. That was my multicultural experience for the day.
Pamela Stegeman
Pamela Stegeman
16 years 13 days ago

Like Organic/Health food and Latin/Mexican food, consumers of all types are expanding their horizons and their tastes. Consumers are looking for greater variety and are willing to make more shopping trips to get that variety. For the mainstream grocer, this means that they will need to clearly define a target consumer, and if that target is based on geography around their store, they will need to have an in-depth understanding of the community — not just the demographics of that community, but their interests, lifestyles, and changing tastes.

Stephan Kouzomis
Stephan Kouzomis
16 years 13 days ago

As the popularity of ethnic foods increases, and expands
over a more diversified variety of these products, we may anticipate more ‘stores within a store,’ if not stand alone
mainstream ethnic supermarkets.

Publix was recently noted for its new Hispanic format stores. And, in time, other ethnic food markets
owned by the mainstream supermarket companies could appear.
There have been other supermarket companies, going back ten
years, that have tried a mainstream, stand alone
ethnic outlet. Maybe these companies timed their entry
“ahead of the opportunity.”

Interestingly, density of population of ethnic group, and
popularity of a specific ethnic foods category with the non
ethnic shoppers could be key considerations.

Bernice Hurst
16 years 13 days ago

Seems to me that if there are more markets drawing in more customers then there are more opportunities for mainstream grocery stores and supermarkets to sell those people the products that they won’t find in the market. In the UK, farmers’ markets located in or near town centres have revitalised the shops that were there already. Retailers really can work together to offer consumers a balance rather than trying to spend all of their time competing. Co-op-er-a-tion rather than com-pe-ti-tion could actually be a good thing for all concerned.


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