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Appeared in Nikkei Sangyo Journal, April 4, 2014

photo 2The growing food trucks business in America has become a $1 billion industry in the past year. Emergent Research predicts that the industry will continue expanding and generate $2.7 billion in revenue by 2017.

Food trucks became more popular around 2007-2008, when the nation was experiencing an economic downturn. They do not require the enormous start-up capital that is necessary to open a restaurant. Marketing cost can be minimized by promoting businesses creatively through social media, such as Facebook and Twitter. In turn, customers can enjoy lunches and snacks at more reasonable prices compared to those available at restaurants or regular stores.  

In New York City, the history of food trucks dates back to the 1690s. Today, there are approximately 500 food trucks in the city: 400 of them are dessert trucks, including ice cream trucks, and the rest offer light meals and snacks. Popular and trendy among them are those offering Asian cuisines, such as Korean, Thai, and Filipino foods, as well as Japanese katsudon, a rice dish served with breaded fried pork cutlet cooked with onions and eggs.

Because the kitchens are small, popular food trucks maintain their quality of products by limiting their foods to newsworthy single-item menus, such as waffles, macaroni and cheese, and kimchi tacos. The average price is $7 to $9. 

In the past few years food trucks have gone gourmet, offering delicacies and desserts from around the world. Many trucks now use local ingredients and organic produce, resulting in an upward trend in prices. They also function as effective platforms for chefs wanting to experiment and offer their unique products to enthusiastic food lovers.  

Capitalizing on the success of food trucks, many owners have started to expand their businesses. Red Hook Lobster Pound, whose food truck was voted the Best in America for 2013, opened a restaurant in Manhattan. In addition, Kelvin Natural Slush now offers its own brand products to gourmet grocery stores.