KANSAS CITY, MO. — Freshness is the primary attribute that influences Hispanics (Mexican Americans and Central Americans) the most in their purchases of meat at the retail store.

As this growing population shops for meat, they demand products that lack odor, display a nice color, lack purge and display a U.S.D.A. Certified sticker. So said John Lundeen, director of market research, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, during a Webinar titled “Fresh Year, Fresh Start.” Sealed Air Corp.’s Cryovac brand co-sponsored the Webinar, which was presented last week by MeatPoultry.com.

“All of these aspects link back to ‘freshness,’” he said. “Mexican Americans and Central Americans represent roughly two-thirds of the Hispanics in America today.”

America’s grocery trade sees the Hispanic population as a growth opportunity, Mr. Lundeen said. “Look at population trends out 25 to 30 years; the number of Caucasian families will stay relatively constant and will still be the largest ethnic population in the U.S. — but the rise in households will definitely be driven by Hispanics.”

Hispanics in the U.S. currently total roughly 44.3 million people. “They have larger families; the average Hispanic family is 3.3 (people) vs. 2.6 for the general market. They have more kids; 57% of all Hispanic households vs. 33% for non Hispanic households. Because of kids and household size, they spend more on groceries: $133 a week versus $91 for the general market. They also make 26 shopping trips a month...that’s dramatically more shopping trips than a non-Hispanic population.”

Hispanics spend 42% more on beef than non-Hispanics. They over-index on steaks. “We refer to steaks as ‘thin meats’ because if you look at how it’s merchandized in the store, they’re often cut very thin,” Mr. Lundeen said.

The top five states with the heaviest Hispanic population are California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois. Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee have more than doubled their Hispanic population since 1990. “One study indicates there is now a Mexican restaurant in every state in the U.S.,” Mr. Lundeen said.

“We learned Hispanics love beef,” Mr. Lundeen said. “Beef consumption is mostly stable or increasing over the last few years. This population finds beef as one of the things they enjoy with increased income. Interesting, their love of beef is not diminished as Hispanics spend more time in the U.S., as they learn English or as they age. Their use of beef will stay constant or increase as their income level increases.”

When N.C.B.A. conducted in-store intercepts, it looked at the number of packages of beef Hispanics were purchasing per average week. The intercepts showed 80% buy three or more packages of beef per week.

Fresh is so important to the Hispanic population because it’s a cultural aspect of beef purchasing. “Hispanic folks link freshness to taste,” Mr. Lundeen said. “Beef tastes different in Mexico due to how fresh it is. In Mexico, they cut beef in the back room in the morning and sell it in the afternoon. If you want to have a similar beef experience (in the U.S.), you’ll look for product that looks fresh.”

Discussions with the U.S. Meat Export Federation’s Mexico City office substantiated this point. “The number-one thing U.S.M.E.F. needs to do in exporting beef to Mexico is to stress its freshness, he said.

Fresh is a driver in both the full-service and self-service meat case for Hispanic shoppers. Bilingual package labeling is also extremely important to both Spanish-dominant shoppers and Hispanic bilingual shoppers.

Clickhereto listen to the entire Webinar.