As U.S. consumers slowly acquaint themselves with the flavors of India, some retailers are stocking bite-size products that allow shoppers to taste-test the food before diving into the main course.
Lubbock, Texas-based United Supermarkets, which operates 48 stores under the United Supermarkets, Market Street and United Super Mercado banners, has experienced an increase in sales of Indian-style finger foods. According to Suman Lawrence, marketing and education specialist for the living well department at United, shoppers there prefer traditional American appetizers flavored with Indian spices and sauces.
“Shoppers will certainly try entrees too, but they're more apt to be adventurous with things like Indian-spiced chicken wings and other finger foods,” said Lawrence. “With appetizers, people can try a bunch of different foods without committing to an entire meal.”
Indian snack foods, such as Chex Mix-type blends with peas, lentils and tiny rice puffs, are also big with United's American consumers.
Poppudums are gaining in popularity at many chains, said Kimberly Wallace, ethnic category director, Tree of Life, a St. Augustine, Fla., distributor.
“Poppudums are lentil chips,” she said. “Some are packaged like Pringles. Some are large and microwavable, and they are usually used to dip into chutneys.”
Indian-inspired snacks are also catching shoppers' attention at Jungle Jim's, a single-store retailer in Fairfield, Ohio. The store carries a few brands of masala-flavored potato chips, as well as yogurt and green onion-flavored potato chips.
“They don't make these chip flavors locally, so we import them from Calcutta,” said Tom Hann, international food manager for the retailer. “But, I suspect that as the demand for Indian food grows, there will eventually be more domestic suppliers, and with them, more products for U.S. consumers to enjoy.”