The study by Joel Waldfogel, an economist at the University of Minnesota used data relating to out-of-hoe eating around the world, harvested from market research firm Euromonitor and TripAdvisor.
The study does not relate to raw ingredients exported from countries to another, but rather looks at thecultural influence of cuisine in restaurants in hotels around the world to see which country has the greatest influence on what people eat.
The study put Italy, thanks in no small part to the global success of pizza, at the top of the heap, followed in second place by China and Japan. India beats France to fifth place and Mexicocompletes the top six.
The idea of cuisine as a national export is a difficult one and does not contribute to GDP. If a pizzeria in China makes pizzas from entirely local ingredients, it has no hard effect on the economy of Italy. However, the soft cultural power and ambassadorial effect of having your cuisine as the most popular in the world should not be underestimated and we have seen government all over the world invest in the spreading of their cuisine as a way to embed cultural influence.
In the 17 countries for which Waldfogel was able to obtain reliable data for Italian food was one of the top three most popular cuisines in 16 of those countries. The exception was South Korea where it was forth. The study estimates that Italy ‘exports’ about $176 billion of its cuisine to the rest of the world. China is a distant second with $115 billion in exports, while France, way down in fifth ‘exports’ just $40.4 billion.