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The food buying habits of Hispanics have begun to mirror those of American consumers as a whole, and U.S. marketers are advised to remain aware of various related trends to most effectively reach the increasingly influential Latino consumer segment.
That's they key takeaway of market research publisher Packaged Facts' new Hispanic Food Shoppers in the U.S. report, which found wide differences in the food preferences of various national groups of Hispanic food shoppers.
“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,” says Packaged Facts Research Director David Sprinkle. “At the same time, Latino spending on fresh produce and meats has declined in an almost archetypal American fashion.”
Differences Reflect Acculturation
In terms of the widening differences in the food preferences of various national groups of Hispanic food shoppers – some of which reflect local U.S. eating habits – Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, for example, are concentrated in the New York metro area and are more likely to eat bagels. Meanwhile, other differences reflect acculturation factors, such as Puerto Ricans' long history on the U.S. mainland, which in turn makes it more likely than other Latino groups to reflect the habits of food shoppers as a whole.
Still other variations are more straightforwardly 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 can be significant differences in food preferences within the Hispanic population, a gap between the purchasing patterns of Hispanic and all food shoppers on average also persists.
Hispanic food shoppers have been devoting an increasing percentage of their food dollars to the center of the store, but there are a wide variety of food products that Latinos (with the exception of Puerto Ricans and in a few cases Mexicans) choose not to buy, such as traditional mainstream American foods like peanut butter, pretzels and pickles.
Although the Spanish language plays a central role in the broader Hispanic experience in the U.S., data in the report suggest that the direct impact of in-language marketing efforts on Hispanic food shoppers is lessening. To wit: 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, according to the Packaged Facts research, as a corporate image-building effort, even with highly acculturated Hispanic food shoppers.
Looking ahead, Packaged Facts expects that the continuing healthy growth in the Hispanic population, an improving economy that will lift job prospects for Latino workers, the overall confidence about the future demonstrated by Hispanic consumers and improved marketing and merchandising by food marketers and retailers will contribute to a more vigorous growth rate in Hispanic food expenditures in grocery and other food stores than was seen in the last five years.
As U.S.-born Hispanics account for an increasing share of the Hispanic population, spending by Hispanic consumer units on processed foods and packaged goods in the center of the store is expected to increase at an even faster rate than overall food expenditures.
Overall, Packaged Facts forecasts that expenditures by Hispanic food shoppers will reach $86 billion in 2018. This represents cumulative growth of more than 28 percent and a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 5 percent.