The US Hispanic market currently has a population of 57.5 million and buying power of more than $1.7 trillion and increasing every month, according to the latest data from Nielsen. And with projections reporting that by 2060 the population will nearly double and make up almost 30 percent of the US population – with buying power exceeding $3.5 trillion – it’s a segment that companies in the meat and poultry industry are keeping a close eye on and dedicating increased resources toward.

José de Jesús, director of multicultural marketing for the National Pork Board, Des Moines, Iowa, believes the Hispanic community represents the greatest opportunity for the industry because of the population growth, their purchasing power and the affinity they have for pork, as well as meat and poultry.

“Opportunity for the industry comes from offering it all in a way that Hispanic consumers are looking for – pre-cut, with authentic flavors and the right thickness,” de Jesús notes. “Latinos like it thin.”

Traditions are incredibly significant in Hispanic culture, and food is no exception. According to de Jesús, 79 percent of Hispanic families cook meals to retain a connection to their native culture and retailers can tap into this by ensuring pork shoulder and whole pigs are available for purchase year-round.

“These cuts are at the center of events like family gatherings and celebrations, and having them on hand will prevent shoppers from turning to specialty butchers,” he says.

One of the more eye-catching findings from the Pork Board’s “Time to Tango: Latinos are Pork’s Future” report is the influence of young Latinos, a demographic that shouldn’t be ignored, de Jesús says.

This is backed up by a report from Mintel, that shows Hispanic consumers are younger than any other demographic, with Latinos accounting for one in five of all US millennials. Additionally, the report shows that 47 percent of Hispanics have children, and compared to the US average, tend to have them at earlier ages, and that will lead to higher spending at grocery stores.

“Considering how big of a role pork plays in Hispanic dining, retailers can benefit from offering a wider variety of thinner pork cuts,” de Jesús says. “Used as either a featured entrée or an ingredient, busy families can prepare thinner cuts in a short amount of time.”

Cargill’s Rumba Meats brand is focused on promoting the Latino community by celebrating its culture and heritage through food. With nearly 30 different specialty meat cuts available, Rumba delivers high-quality traditional products that are an integral part of Latino traditions and culture.

Hillary Gerard, brand manager for Rumba Meats, Cargill Protein, North America, says as a high growth segment, the Hispanic segment’s buying power and cultural influence will have a major impact on consumer perceptions, attitudes and behaviors as it relates to the purchase of meat and poultry products.

A few key points highlight the importance of this segment. To start, Gerard notes the segment’s buying power is large. In 2016, the US Hispanic buying power exceeded the GDP of Mexico. Also, as a segment they are young, so their growth and buying potential will only increase in the coming years.

“Typically, Hispanic families have a larger household size which means more wage earners per household,” she says. “That in combination with their unique consumption habits mean higher spending in meat and poultry.”

With 53 percent of Hispanics under the age of 30, in the years ahead, younger Hispanics are also more likely to be purchasers of fresh meat, with Hispanics under the age of 35 projected to be 35 times more likely to be purchasing fresh meat.

“We hear a lot of our consumers and vendor partners who work in this space talk about the recent re-acculturation movement that is sweeping the United States,” Gerard says. “As Hispanic populations continue to grow in size and representation in the US, there is more pride in being Latino-Latina. We hear stories of a lot of Hispanic consumers who once tried to ‘hide’ the fact that they were Hispanic are now reengaging with their culture through language, media and of course food.”

Now that there is more focus on diversity and the power of this ethnic group, companies are seeing the Hispanic customers being more demanding of the retailers where they shop and the brands they buy. They have unique needs when it comes to food ingredients and cuisine and they want those needs to be met in mainstream grocery versus having to always visit specialty stores.

Changing times

In 2016, after evaluating US Census data, meat purchase and consumption data as well as growth forecasts, Cargill made the intentional effort to shift the positioning of Rumba Meats to resonate with the US Hispanic consumer.

“Up until that point, we had been marketing the brand and building content for a multicultural consumer base,” Gerard says. “Instead of being all things to all consumers, we knew it was the right time to build a program for this rapid growing segment.”

Data shows that 80 percent of Hispanic consumers shop with someone else and 60 percent shop with children, so shopping is an experience and retailers should be creating a welcoming environment to appeal to the group, de Jesús says.

“When you visit a bodega or a Hispanic store, you feel they have the right assortment of products, but also other products relevant to them and you feel like you’re visiting a store in your home country,” he says. “In a store, the butcher is a big player for that. Latinos rely on the butcher as a trusted source, and some do a better job of making everyone feel welcome and creating a hyper-local environment.”

Popular cuts and flavors

When it comes to a flavor perspective, the Mexican consumers tend to look for more spice, Caribbean consumers look for more sauces, and de Jesús says success comes from understanding what the consumer wants and offering products that meet those needs.

“It’s worth noting that Latinos like it all – they eat the whole pig, which is why there is a lot of export going on with variety meats,” de Jesús says. “From what’s available here, chops, ribs, tenderloins, roast, cutlets, ground, pulled pork, bellies, they are all popular.”

In response to these trends, Cargill has crafted a full portfolio of product offerings based on Hispanic consumer demand that meets their unique needs.

“We want to ensure we are creating value for this important consumer segment. The core of our business is our line of beef variety meats, where we see Hispanic consumers over-index in the purchase of these products across the board,” Gerard says. “This line includes oxtail, beef tripe and sweetbreads.”

The company’s product development pipeline is focused on continuing to meet the unmet needs of this consumer in retail regardless of the occasion – holidays, breakfast, even traditional “soup and stew” season. Last spring, it introduced a line of marinated poultry and beef items, with the development of this product line 100 percent guided by Hispanic consumer preferences including raw materials, seasoning and packaging.

“In addition to product quality and product availability, the Hispanic customer is looking for retailers and brands to market to them in real/authentic ways,” Gerard says. “That means creating content and messaging that aligns with Hispanic holidays such as Día de Los Muertos and Las Posadas, and providing messaging and packaging in Spanish.”