Thursday, October 6, 2016

Tracking the Poke Trend

It certainly feels like the poke bowl was the dish of the summer — and turns out the numbers support that. But is interest in the Hawaiian dish here to stay? According to data provided by Foursquare (the app for discovering new places), the Hawaiian food "trend" has actually been imminent for quite some time. Eater recently mined that data to explore the roots of the poke craze — and project what the scope of Hawaiian dining might look like in the next few years.

Tracing poke's origins takes us to the Pacific islands. The raw fish salad is usually served with fresh add-ins (like avocado, edamame, or cucumbers) and seasoned with soy sauce. Poke bowls are often served over rice, leafy greens, or other grains. The dish has been a long-time staple in Hawaii and California, where people with indigenous roots in the Pacific islands, known as native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, have the largest populations in the country.

But in recent years poke has been spreading to other parts of the country, Foursquare data shows. The number of Hawaiian restaurants on Foursquare, which includes those that serve poke, has nearly doubled in the last two years, from 342 venues to 700 as of August 2016. This August alone new poke concepts have opened in several cities, including Phoenix, Orange County, Las Vegas, Chicago, and New York City. If the growth rate continues, by 2020 there could be more than 1,000 Hawaiian restaurants in the country.

What’s behind the spread? The growth of Hawaiian cuisine, especially in the west, could be linked to decades of migration and the Hawaiian diaspora. That includes three waves of 20th-century Hawaiian migrations, according to J KĂ«haulani Kauanui, a Wesleyan University professor who wrote about diaspora in a 2007 article for the Pacific Journal. The first two waves followed World War II and Hawaii’s statehood in 1959, respectively. The third wave began in the 1970s, when a rising cost of living created by tourism and development pushed more Hawaiians to places like California, Nevada, and Utah.

And that diaspora has spread. In Arizona and Utah, Hawaiian restaurants have doubled and tripled, respectively, in the last five years, Foursquare data shows. Those states also have some of the highest native Hawaiian populations in the country. On the east coast, Florida, home to the seventh highest population of native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the US as of the 2010 Census, has gone from having only eight Hawaiian restaurants on Foursquare in 2013 to 24 today.

by Vince Dixon, Eater |  Read more:
Image: Magdanatka/Shutterstock