Catering to Hispanic and Latinos in the Supermarket: Marketing Tips

April 11, 2012

With their flourishing numbers in the U.S. and their love of  fresh fruits and vegetables, members of the Hispanic / Latino community make ideal produce department customers.

The U.S. Hispanic population has skyrocketed to over 50  million consumers and their numbers have expanded well beyond the Southwest and Florida.

Hispanic consumers have settled in many major metropolitan areas, including Atlanta, Denver, Las Vegas and Charlotte, N.C., Hernandez says.  There even are pockets of Hispanics in “secondary cities,” such as Cincinnati and Minneapolis.

Hispanics hail from many countries, including Argentina, Chile and Cuba, and each have their own produce and food preferences that should be catered to, he says. But also keep in mind that 65% of Hispanics in the U.S. are from Mexico or of Mexican descent.

Large population

Latinos now make up 16% of the nation’s population, says Eduardo Serena, marketing director for the Los Angeles-based Avocado Producers and Exporting Packers Association of Michoacán (APEAM).

This population rise provides retailers with valuable sales opportunities by allowing them to strategically market to the Latino consumer, Serena says.   Hispanics tend to prefer specific foods, Hernandez says, especially when it comes to fruits and vegetables.  That includes lots of tropical produce, says Mary Ostlund, marketing director for Brooks Tropicals LLC, Homestead, Fla.

Tropical produce is Latino produce,” and “It’s the fruit and vegetables that’s native to Latin cuisines.”

Yucca, yams, malanga, boniatos, mangos, papaya and pineapple are essential entries in the produce departments that want Hispanic trade, she says.  Hispanic shoppers will patronize stores that offer good quality and price, she adds.

Top 20 list

Retailers seeking to attract Hispanic shoppers should have a basic selection of 20 or so Hispanic items, including mangoes, guavas, jalapeno peppers and tomatillos, says Hernandez, who previously served as marketing director for Houston-based Fiesta Mart Inc.

Roma tomatoes, he adds, are critical, and melons, grapes and bananas also will bring in traffic.

“Because avocados are a food staple in the Latino household, Avocados from Mexico continuously invests in sales-building integrated marketing programs targeting Hispanic consumers,” Serena says.

Indeed, it’s important to let consumers know you have the items they want by advertising them, Hernandez says. Half the items on the front page of the typical advertising circular for Hispanic-oriented stores are perishables, he says.

And be sure to identify produce in-store with Spanish-language signs to make Hispanic shoppers feel welcome.

“It’s a sign of warmth, friendship, respect and acknowledgment,” Hernandez says.

Habitual shoppers

Customers of the 33-store Gonzalez Northgate Market chain based in Anaheim, Calif., tend to be very habitual, says Alfonso Cano, assistant produce director.
“They buy the same top 10 items every week, regardless of price,” he says.

Those items include white onions, roma tomatoes, bananas, papayas, cilantro, bulk beans, chili peppers (such as serrano, jalapeno and pasilla) and tomatillos.

Hispanic consumers often shop three or four times a week, he says.

Northgate distributes its advertising circular to ZIP codes surrounding its stores and buys commercials on Spanish-language radio stations for holidays, weekends or “when we feel we need to push our customer count,” he says.

Once in a while, Northgate runs a TV ad, usually aimed at customers who have not tried the store or to announce the arrival of a new or seasonal item — such as honey tangerines.

The company strives to offer a fair price, Cano says.

“We have to be competitively priced — not necessarily the cheapest.”

Ample selection

On the East Coast, product selection and merchandising differentiate the 14 Compare Supermarkets from traditional stores, says Juan Diaz, store manager for a Brooklyn, N.Y., location of the Brooklyn-based chain.

About 75% of the store’s customers are Hispanic, he says, and they rely on the store to have the plantains — the most popular item in the produce department — yucca, malanga and other items they crave.

While other stores may have a small display of a handful of Hispanic items, Compare Supermarkets have a full line and merchandise them in large displays, Diaz says.

Hispanic items are featured on the front of the store’s ad as well as inside, he says.

At Northgate stores, because the chain offers high-quality produce at reasonable prices, many non-Hispanics shop there, too, which helps the company build its customer base, Cano says.

“We try not to be too ethnic for the non-ethnic customer or too non-ethnic for the ethnic customer,” Cano says.

There is at least one, if not several, produce specialists on the floor at all times who can offer product information, samples, or recipe suggestions for items consumers may not be familiar with.

Busy days

Sundays and Mondays are the busiest days for the chain, with Saturday ranking third.

Cano sets up large displays of the 10 or 15 best-selling items, but he sparks impulse buys by strategically placing secondary displays throughout the store — in the meat or dairy departments, for example.

While most experts advise using Spanish-language signs in stores with a large Hispanic customer base, signs in Compare Supermarkets are in English, not Spanish or bilingual, Diaz says.

Diaz says he considers it his job to have plenty of everything his customers want on hand, since they rely on the store to keep their kitchens well supplied.
“We don’t want to be short,” he says. “You can lose a customer if you don’t have all the items they need.”

Frequent shoppers

“Studies have shown your Hispanic (consumer) shops frequently and shops a variety of stores from bodegas to drug stores for groceries,” Ostlund of Brooks Tropicals says. “Play up how you sell best, and the Hispanic consumer may frequent your establishment more.”

Venture beyond papayas, mangoes, avocados and pineapples and merchandise starfruit, uniq fruit, passion fruit, ginger and other tropicals as well, she suggests.

Since Hispanics often shop several times a week, Hernandez says they tend to prefer ripened fruit to nonripened fruit.

They also prefer bulk product to packaged and are more concerned about the quality of their produce than how it looks. And they are impressed by large displays, which they associate with a product that is popular, reasonably priced and in good rotation.

“You don’t have to have beautiful displays that people are afraid to touch,” he says.

Source: HIspanic Trending

By Tom Burfield