Hispanic shoppers moving to the mainstream

by Keith Nunes
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Hispanic consumers are spending a significantly higher portion of their food budgets on packaged foods such as processed vegetables, as well as on frozen and canned meals, Packaged Facts said.

ROCKVILLE, Md. — The acculturation of many Hispanic consumers has begun to affect their food-buying habits, according to the market research firm Packaged Facts, and those evolving habits mirror those of the mainstream market.

“It’s become evident that Hispanic consumers are spending a significantly higher portion of their food budgets on packaged foods such as processed vegetables, as well as on frozen and canned meals,” said David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts. “At the same time, Latino spending on fresh produce and meats has declined in an almost archetypal American fashion.”

There are differences in the food preferences of various national groups of Hispanic food shoppers, according to “Hispanic food shoppers in the US,” a report recently released by Packaged Facts. “Some reflect local US eating habits. Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, for example, are concentrated in the New York metro area and are more likely to eat bagels.”

Other differences reflect acculturation factors. For example, Puerto Ricans have a long history on the US mainland and are more likely than other Latino groups to reflect the habits of food shoppers as a whole. Still other variations are more related to national and regional origins, including the obvious fact that packaged “Mexican” foods and ingredients are most likely to be used by Latinos whose heritage is from Mexico or Central America.

While there may be differences in food preferences within the Hispanic population, a gap between the purchasing patterns of Hispanic and all food shoppers on average also continues to persist. Hispanic food shoppers have been devoting an increasing percentage of their food dollars to the center of the store, but there are a variety of food products that Latinos (with the exception of Puerto Ricans and in a few cases Mexicans) choose not to buy. These include traditional mainstream American foods such as peanut butter, pretzels and pickles.

And although the Spanish language plays a central role in the broader Hispanic experience in the United States, data in the report suggest that the direct impact of in-language marketing efforts on Hispanic food shoppers is lessening. Only 36 percent remember more about or pay more attention to products and services that are advertised in Spanish. Nevertheless, Spanish-language advertising and labeling is still worth the investment as a corporate image-building effort, even with highly acculturated Hispanic food shoppers.

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