U.S. ethnic food sales are riding a wave, having set a record $2.2 billion so far in 2009, according to Mintel. The consumer research firm predicts the wave will continue into 2010, ultimately increasing sales by 20 percent into 2014.

Mexican/Hispanic foods dish up the largest servingof the ethnic foods market, tallying 62 percent of sales. That’s not all happening at home. About six in 10 respondents to a Mintel survey reported cooking Mexican food within a 30-day period.

However, it’s the Asian and Indian food segments that are driving the market’s growth. Asian foods account for 11 percent of the growth, with Indian food increasing 35 percent.

Some of that is coming from new U.S. residents. Since 2005, growth of new legal, permanent residents is 1 million per year, notes David Browne, Mintel senior analyst. “This escalating group is influencing the American palate and piquing interest in new cuisines.”

Income is a strong predictor of ethnic food cooking. According to Mintel, 92 percent of respondents with annual household incomes exceeding $150,000 cook ethnic food within a month. Young adults, 18 to 24, are in that league, too, as 91 percent reported cooking ethnic food within a 30-day period.

Resurgence in cooking and more product innovation are helping drive ethnic food sales. Food manufacturers have expanded offerings to include more ethnic sauces and seasonings to simply add to meat and vegetables. Others are putting together complete meal solutions and pre-made meal kits, Browne says.