How Big is the Market?
Poke Bowls are a fast-rising star of the fast-casual industry
Until very recently, you would have to visit the islands of Hawaii or specialized places in Los Angeles or New York City if you wanted to enjoy a poke bowl. Now, the long popular Hawaiian dish is seemingly everywhere – and for adventurous American eaters, this is good news, indeed.
The poke bowl is commonly referred to as, “sushi, deconstructed,” and it is easy to see why. Poke bowls are a blend cubed fish, vegetables such as avocado and cucumber and marinated in a soy sauce or ginger dressing. The simple ingredients pack a powerful, flavorful punch and because the dish is so simple – it is also easy to customize.
In an article about the origins of the poke bowl phenomenon by Hawaii Magazine, entitled, “How the Hawaiian poke bowl became the world’s new fast food,” the publication points out that the trend is benefitting business owners:
For the entrepreneur, poke perfectly captures three of our current obsessions: Hawaii, fast-casual dining and healthy food. Hawaii is suddenly hot: witness the rise of Hawaii-themed restaurants, modern aloha prints and visitor arrivals to the Islands, which are at an all-time high. Then, there’s the swell of fast-casual dining, as restaurateurs apply the Chipotle model on concepts from salads to Indian cuisine, and now, poke bowls, where eaters can mix and match bases, sauces and toppings. The third obsession is nothing new, as old as McDonald’s, as pervasive as guilt: the striving for healthy foods … and few things taste as healthy, and yet satisfying, as poke.1
For the consumer, the benefits are obvious. Unlike sushi, which can become expensive quickly, the price range of a poke bowl is comfortably within that of a typical meal at a fast-casual concept. Business Insider reports in an article entitled, “ Poke is the biggest fast casual trend,” that, “While sushi can cost upwards of $15 or $20 for anything more than a small, basic roll, most poké bowls are priced in the $10 to $20 range (depending on the add-ins) for a complete meal.”
The popularity of poke bowls is also due to the fact that unlike burritos, burgers or pizza, poke bowls give the consumer an option for a healthier, simpler meal.
“They’re a middle ground between quick salad bowls (think Chop’t, Just Salad, or Sweetgreen) and the more calorie-filled offerings of Chipotle,”Business Insider reports. “Poké bowls fit that niche: they’re flavorful, packed with protein, and don’t feel like “rabbit food,” but they’re still light and healthy.”2
With the demand for healthy and delicious food skyrocketing across the country, the fact that consumers can satisfy their appetite without hurting their wallets is a strong indicator that the poke bowl craze is here to stay for good.
Sushi is here to stay, and Americans want more of it than ever
Americans love international cuisine, and their adventurous appetites have brought many new cuisines into the heart of mainstream US culture. From Thai to Mexican to Indian to Japanese and beyond, it is undeniable that our tastes have become more inclusive and more open-minded about other cultures. In a recent survey conducted by NDP Group, 75% of Americans of all ages said that they were open to trying international cuisine(3).
All international cuisine undergoes a certain amount of Americanization over time, which creates opportunity to expand on flavor profiles and innovate on tradition — allowing new fusions of genres, customs and ingredients. This sense of adventure has created foodie culture, and we have become far more particular about what we expect from our food, simply because we know more about it than ever before. We want our food not only to look Instagram®-worthy, we want it to be sourced from the best ingredients, to be healthy, delicious, and — of course — we want it to be affordable.
In an article published by PBS, titled “We Are What We Eat: Asian Americans and Food,” author Brian Ignacio writes that the new landscape of online access to information and new media focused on discovering the world helped to create the foodie culture.
“It helped that we came of age concurrent with an era defined by the Food Network™, Anthony Bourdain books, restaurant blog/sites, fusion taco trucks, et al.,” Ignacio writes. “Food culture has transformed into so-called ‘foodie’ culture: adventurous, creative and cutting-edge, where chefs are feted as part-rock stars, part-symphony conductors, part-gastronomical engineers. Food isn’t just about tradition anymore, let alone anything as pedestrian as sustenance; it’s about whipping up passion, flair and precision on a single plate (with a dollop of enoki-infused foam for good measure).”
Asian food, in particular, has become one of the most popular cuisines in American life. The Washington Post reports that Asian food is the fastest-growing segment in the United States, growing at a rate of 500% since 1999(4). Of the Asian food genres, perhaps none has become as much a part of mainstream life as sushi — a style of food that dates back to 400 or 500 A.D., and is now a $3 billion annual industry in the United States.
In an article called “How Sushi Became an American Institution,” Paste Magazine writes that sushi’s rise to prominence is directly related to the American ability to play with the tradition of sushi.
“Sushi has transformed into a new American food medium, and even if it often deviates from its roots, it is still a perfectly portable meal that’s open to creativity and enjoyed by food lovers everywhere,” the publication reports.
Vice magazine, in an article titled “Believe it or not, Sushi is Pretty Damn American,” also details how sushi became so popular in the US:
“Sushi is as American as, well, sushi.”
How is Ginger Sushi + Poke Shop™ Delivering the Sushi Experience Americans want?
Ginger Sushi + Poke Shop takes innovation to new heights with our brand’s genre-bending menu that fuses traditional sushi and Japanese cuisine with a dash of Mexican, Italian and American cuisine into a completely original offering.
In Canada, we are known as Sushi Shop™, and we have over 150 locations open across the country. Sushi Shop is one of the most popular fast casual brands in Canada because our unique products set us apart from everything else on the market. Thousands of fans love our Sushi Pizza and Sushi Tacos, and now we are becoming known for our exciting take on Poke Bowls. As we begin franchising in the US, Ginger Sushi + Poke Shop expects to springboard off our Canadian success by helping passionate US entrepreneurs realize their full potential with a sushi business.
1Hawaii Magazine, “How the Hawaiian poke bowl became the world’s new fast food,”
2Business Insider, “Poke bowls is the biggest fast casual food
3NDP Group, “Eating Patterns in America”
4The Washington Post, “Asian Food: Fastest Growing Food in the World”