11 stats on the consumption of Asian food

In collaboration with market insight company CGA, condiment maker Lee Kum Kee has produced a report on what Brits want from oriental food, with a particular focus on Chinese.

18 March 2019

  • Chinese is the third most popular cuisine in the UK when eating out. Of the 1,000 consumers surveyed for the Future of Oriental Food report, 69% said they order it out of home. That’s just slightly higher than Indian (66%) and American (60%), but lower than British (81%) and Italian (75%).
  • Chinese is also the number-one takeaway/delivery option (60%), ahead of Indian (45%) and British (33%).
  • More generally, oriental food consumers over-index for pubs (+6%) and independent restaurants (+8%), as well as chains like Wetherspoon (+8%), Subway (+9%), Burger King (+9%) and Slug & Lettuce (3%).
  • Of all oriental categories, Chinese is the favourite for 56% of those surveyed, followed by Thai (17%) and Japanese (9%).
  • Comparing the wider UK to the capital, Chinese was the only oriental cuisine to perform better outside of London: around 70% of people not residing in the capital said they liked to order it, compared to 61% within London. Thai, Japanese and Malaysian were all clearly more popular in the capital than outside it.
  • Chinese also appeared to be the food where people most want to stick to favourites. Around a third said they ordered familiar dishes, compared to 19% for Japanese and 13% for Vietnamese. Perhaps because the latter two cuisines are more popular in London, both enjoyed a much larger percentage of consumers who wanted to try something new every time.
  • When it comes to why consumers explore new oriental options, the two major reasons given were dish descriptions (50%) and the chance to try something they hadn’t eaten before (48%). Also key were the ingredients used and the regionality of the dish, both clocking in as a motivation at 29%.
  • Digging deeper into menu descriptions, 25% of consumers said an indication of flavour influenced their decision to order an oriental dish at a pub or restaurant chain, while 38% found pictures helpful and 30% desired an explanation of the unfamiliar names/ingredients.
  • Across the UK, 72% are familiar with Cantonese food and 56% with Sichuanese. On the other end of the scale, 71% had no idea what constituted Shanghai cuisine, compared to 74% for Beijing eats and 88% for Hunanese.
  • There are health concerns surrounding Chinese food that Lee Kum Kee suggests foodservice could address. For example, 23% of consumers said that they avoided Chinese food because they associated it with MSG, additives and fat.
  • Authenticity is important to 84% of consumers when eating oriental food. According to the survey respondents, the key factors necessary for establishing confidence is this area include the variety of dishes (42%), a chef from the same country as the cuisine (42%) and staff from the same country as the cuisine (35%).

Most popular oriental dishes

Fried rice: 57%

Spring rolls: 50%

Sweet and sour: 47%

Pad Thai: 21%

Dim sum: 20%

Sushi: 18%

Ramen: 12%

Pho: 7%

Korean BBQ: 7%

Bao: 5%

Percentage indicates number of respondents who selected the item as one of their favourite dishes when prompted.

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