From tamales to guava fruit, shoppers from all backgrounds are increasingly crossing cultural lines and seeking out foods and flavors traditional to Hispanic cuisine. Retailers are taking notice and rushing to meet this growing demand. In the fresh food departments alone, the number of products associated with Hispanic cuisine stocked by grocery retailers has increased steadily since 2009 and is up as much as 20 percent in the bakery and deli departments.
But who exactly is driving product growth? The predictable and obvious answer is Hispanic shoppers, a group whose buying power is growing and typically shops the fresh departments more than the general population. However, many products with Hispanic origins or inspired flavors are realizing their biggest sales growth from different shopper groups, including “Tex-Mex” shoppers, who index high for “Americanized” Hispanic cuisine. “Ethnic explorers,” who frequently purchase food across different cultural roots, are also having a significant effect on multicultural product growth. In the five fresh departments—produce, meat, seafood, deli and bakery—winning with Hispanic-inspired products and flavors often means understanding this key shopper group’s unique demands.
In many cases, ethnic explorers are driving growth of products with Hispanic flavor profiles and other products commonly associated with Hispanic cuisine. For example, sales of rolls like bolillo and telera increased 9.8 percent in 2013. While 9.1 percent of this growth can be attributed to Hispanic shoppers, 36.4 percent came from ethnic explorers. This group’s contribution to sales growth also outpaced Hispanics’ contribution for other Latin cuisine products, including chorizo, various hot peppers and Hispanic cheeses.
Sales of Hispanic entrees in the deli department (which includes products like carnitas, tamales and tacos, among others) increased 12 percent in 2013 compared to the previous year and followed a similar pattern: ethnic explorers again drove much of the sales growth.
Since fresh is typically regarded as a precursor for up-and-coming flavor trends, this growth has big implications across the store. Tracking the rise of popular Hispanic flavor profiles (think habanero, poblano and avocado) in other consumer packaged goods, like frozen entrees or even ice cream, can lead to product innovation in the store’s fresh and center aisles alike.
From exploring product innovation to developing more efficient merchandising and marketing strategies, it’s critical to consider who will end up using a product and how they will use it—even if the answer may surprise you.