R&FF Retailer: Hispanic Foods Move Beyond Hot & Spicy

Discussion
Jun 04, 2007

By Dan Raftery, President of Raftery Resource Network

Through special arrangement, what follows is an excerpt of a current article from Refrigerated & Frozen
Foods Retailer
magazine, presented here for discussion.

The days of marketing to Hispanic shoppers by hanging a fake piñata from the
ceiling and building an end-cap of tacos are long gone. Not only is the Latino
share of the population increasing – from about 14 percent of the population
today to 17 percent by 2015, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – the cuisine
they crave is drawing followings from across the demographic board.

For example, probably only Latinos and maybe Californians knew about chipotle 10 years ago. Now it has mainstreamed as a flavor, infusing an increasingly wide range of products. Sargento Foods, Plymouth, WI, is launching chipotle-seasoned cheddar cheese, targeted to all market segments, not just Hispanics. In the freezer case, where Hispanics clamor for full-fat, high-sugar premium brands, products targeted to Latinos are also hitting the broader market’s bulls-eye.

Pierre’s Ice Cream, Cleveland, was pleasantly surprised by the mainstream popularity of its margarita, coconut and pineapple flavored ice creams. It is now launching similar flavors in its “Hola Fruta” line of sherbets.

With examples like these popping up with increasing frequency storewide, how do you find space for all these new products? Experts agree that you start by picking the right products in the first place. They urge retailers to make sure they understand their shoppers and learn which products turn them on and – just as important – which products turn them off.

“Hispanic shoppers want full-flavored products,” says Ric Alvarez, president and CEO, Juanita’s Foods, Wilmington, Calif. “They look for authentic flavor profiles that fit their background experiences. They also want convenience, like everyone else.”

Mr. Alvarez notes that regionality makes a big difference in preferred flavor profiles. “Mexico, for example, has very different flavors across its regions, just like the United States has regional variations in foods,” he observes. Add the other Latino menu variations from Central and South America into this mix and it’s easy to see why Mr. Alvarez advises retailers to be sure they know which segment of Latinos is shopping in their stores.

Merchandising Hispanic foods can be fun, whether to first-, second- or third-generation Hispanics or to non-Hispanic “crossovers.” Mr. Alvarez’s company uses festive tents and even has a truck in south Los Angeles for massive outdoor demos. While Cinco de Mayo is bigger than ever,

Mr. Alvarez recommends promoting year-round. For inspiration, you can choose from a smorgasbord of 20+ Mexican holidays at www.mexonline.com/holiday.htm.

Since a protein dish is usually at the center of Latino meals, retailers can tie-in merchandising with complementary components. This works especially well in a meal solution section of the store with an adjacent “fiesta” area for cross-merchandising.

“There are more and more food lovers out there and retailers would be wise to merchandise and promote Hispanic foods to this crowd more often,” says Mr. Alvarez.

Discussion Questions: Do you agree that the Hispanic food opportunity goes well beyond the Hispanic audience? If so, should grocers change the way they market or even educate the general public about Hispanic cuisine and perhaps move past what is typically a Mexican food focus?

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9 Comments on "R&FF Retailer: Hispanic Foods Move Beyond Hot & Spicy"

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Mark Lilien
Guest
10 years 6 months ago
Americans adopted other ethnic food (bagels, pizza) and they’re adopting Hispanic foods, too. The mainstream adoption usually changes the “purity” of the original, though, so assortments are subject to regional variation. It’s easy to find ham and swiss on a bagel today, but it’s unlikely that the deli’s who brought bagels to North America would’ve served that sandwich. Many Americans (though clearly not all of them) can’t tolerate highly spiced mainstream Mexican foods. Pizza Hut isn’t an authentic Italian experience. Taco Bell isn’t an authentic Mexican experience. But both represent steps towards wider adoption of ethnic cuisine.
Pradip V. Mehta, P.E.
Guest
Pradip V. Mehta, P.E.
10 years 6 months ago

Yes, no question about it. The Kroger store in our neighborhood sells fresh, hot tortillas every evening. Tortillas are similar to our Indian bread. There are times when instead of making bread, we simply pick up these freshly made tortillas.

David Biernbaum
Guest
10 years 6 months ago

Does the Hispanic food opportunity go beyond the Hispanic audience? Absolutely, because we are a culture that embraces the tastes and variety of ethnic foods of many types, evidenced by the popularity of restaurants that serve foods of ethnicity. I live in the Midwest where Hispanic foods are not widely available in the supermarket, so I especially enjoy shopping at stores such as H.E.B., when I’m in Texas. The market is huge just as it is, and would be, for any number of ethnic foods and cuisines.

Raymond D. Jones
Guest
Raymond D. Jones
10 years 6 months ago
It is important to recognize the that there are several related, but different, opportunities for Hispanic food marketing. There is the opportunity presented by the growth of the Hispanic population. It is important to carry the foods that appeal to this segment of consumers. This can be further segmented into countries of origin and degree of assimilation. There is the opportunity to attract the growing Hispanic consumer group to traditional American foods and brands as they become more assimilated. There is also the opportunity to leverage the American taste for new and different ethnic foods as our culture adopts the… Read more »
Barry Wise
Guest
Barry Wise
10 years 6 months ago

If we look back 20 years, the only Asian foods we’d find in most supermarkets were stir fries and egg rolls. Today’s consumers want to try lots of different kinds of ethnic foods, and the time is right to promote all types of Hispanic, not just the traditional ones associated with Hispanic foods.

Jeffery M. Joyner
Guest
Jeffery M. Joyner
10 years 6 months ago
There is no doubt that Hispanic consumers are more main stream today than ever before. This fact can be seen in every part of the “American Culture.” Have you listened to your kids music lately? How about noticing what they order at their favorite fast food hangout? One cannot be involved in any of the popular media in the U.S. and not be aware of the influence of various Latin cultures. This is a very good thing too. It’s good for business and it’s good socially. Did you know that in the U.S., our children are one of the few… Read more »
Robert Leppan
Guest
Robert Leppan
10 years 6 months ago
Hispanic food is the latest in a long line of ethnic cuisine that has emigrated to the U.S. over the last century, brought by successive waves of German, Italian, Polish, Irish, Scandinavian and other nationalities who brought their recipes, tastes & culinary traditions here. There’s no doubt that the huge increase in Latino immigrants has also added variety and ethnic diversity to our kitchens. Salsa passed ketchup in grocery sales volume many years ago. Hispanic food within both retail and restaurant channels continues to grow given the increase in the Latino population segment but also because the broader public is… Read more »
Janet Dorenkott
Guest
Janet Dorenkott
10 years 6 months ago
The teenagers line up at lunch time to get into Chipotle and I can’t go to a party where half the women aren’t bringing a taco dip! Mexican food tastes great and there is definitely a growing market for it. But I believe there are two clashing movements…. Although Mexican food is increasing in popularity, I question how long it will last. Why? Because there is also a movement toward eating healthy. Mexican food is high in carbohydrates and fat. Carbs smothered in cheese. Mexicans also have one of the highest rates of diabetes in the country, due in large… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 6 months ago
Lessee, will non-Hispanics in the U.S. purchase Hispanic foods? Or, do you think television will be the next big thing? More specifically, in response to the comment by Ric Alvarez, president and CEO of Juanita’s Foods: When you say that “Hispanic shoppers want full-flavored products,” are you suggesting that Gringos prefer less flavor when it’s available? (Flavorgate or Gringogate, Oh No!) Take a look around, Ric, and see how much the porky U.S. population reveres flavor. Then, see how much more prevalent obesity is among the U.S. Hispanic population than the remaining population. Yes, please, bring us your flavor profiles.… Read more »
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