Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Street Food - Still a Growth Market

With a fast expanding middle class of consumers and rising levels of discretionary spending power you would expect there to be some impact on everyday eating habits of the indigenous population. International fast food outlets are growing by a whopping 12/15 per cent per annum. Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, French and many other fast food chains are beginning to swamp and marginalise the old American standards of MacDonald’s, KFC and Burger King.
Though the latter still have a critical role to play in the educational market providing the venue for student homework and remedial sessions! That’s something you don’t see in Europe or America. But the point I want to make here is that you would expect this internationalisation of eating habits to have a detrimental knock-on effect on traditional food sectors such as ‘street food’. But no – this sector is also growing at a healthy 5 per cent per annum. For those not familiar with Thailand, ‘street food’ is a collective term for mainly individual entrepreneurs carving out a life for themselves selling ready to eat food from mobile catering units stationed along busy roads – in fact they can crop up anywhere there is a reasonable level of pedestrian footfall.
It doesn’t come without risk. Ignoring the everyday risks posed by mad motorists there is also a potential health problem. Street stalls selling skewered pork are a risk both to those selling it and those consuming it – according to the Pollution Control Department. The risks include eye irritation, respiratory problems and even cancer. The smoke from hot grills contains volatile organic compounds – but, apparently, not as high as that given off by burning incense sticks. Danger lurks everywhere!
Armed with this statistical evidence I set out to try and explain this phenomenon. An ABAC Poll in 2009 found that 70 per cent of Bangkok residents regularly eat ‘street food’. They do so because of: busy lifestyle 66%, cheapness 51%, convenience to home/place of work 46% and friendliness of stall holders 41%. A straw poll amongst my independent female students in Bangkok revealed they are fast losing traditional food preparation skills with most eating every night. This is also influenced by the fact most new condominiums come without kitchens. So now you know!
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