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