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America is the original melting pot of cultures but certain cultures blend into this melting pot while others stand out and clearly influences current trends and tastes for food. Recently, there has been an upsurge in the popularity of Mexican and Pan-Latin flavors on America’s plates, prompting a redefinition of what we consider mainstream culinary culture. The numbers speak for themselves, with nearly 73 percent of all U.S. consumers using Mexican food and ingredients, and sales of Hispanic foods and beverages expected to reach $10.7 billion in 2017, according to recent reports.
Brands and products interested in capitalizing on the growing taste for Latin food and flavors are best served by understanding where that influence comes from and how it's impacting and guiding consumers' choices across ethnicities.
Recently, our Hispanic division, ColectivaLatina, conducted a joint survey with The Padilla Group (which specializes in importing, selling and developing marketing strategies for Hispanic brands) to better understand how all consumers are shopping the “ethnic aisle” and who is buying Hispanic products. The survey identified three key shopper segments and reinforced the influence of Latino culture and flavors across demographic profiles.
We found that the two segments that purchased the most Hispanic products and brands included large percentages of Non-Hispanics consumers. Interestingly enough, race and low level of acculturation were not determining factors for purchase behavior or brand loyalty to “typical or traditional Hispanic products.” In fact, a product’s definition as “authentic” was rated as a more important purchasing factor to the segment with fewer Hispanics. Additionally, the classification of products deemed as authentic varied widely, indicating a mix of demographic groups. Our finding that multicultural shopping preferences also strongly resonate with non-Hispanic whites is further supported by the newly-released Nielsen study, "The Multicultural Edge: Rising Super Consumers."
As restated in the study, by only targeting Hispanics, the expected shopper demographic for multicultural products, marketers are missing out on the bigger value of the more general consumer base. Think of foods like sushi and pizza that were once considered wholly ethnic foods and are now as mainstream as stadium hot dogs and popcorn. These foods are not marketed solely to the cultures they came from, because they are beloved and purchased across demographics. A similar effect is happening with Latin dishes and food products, proving that the selling premise of “multicultural” goes well beyond the Latino population.
So how does a brand or retailer become relevant to both the influential multicultural population as well as the general market?
Because mainstream culture is increasingly shaped by the attitudes, tastes and preferences of multiple ethnicities and races, a single overarching message or general market approach will not work. Expecting consumers to assimilate to a uniform marketing message is not an effective answer. Many multicultural consumers possess an ambicultural identity, signifying that they are inclusive of both their ethnic heritage and an American identity. By weaving these multicultural insights into marketing strategies, brands and marketers can better exemplify the cultural passions now shared by both Latinos and the more general market.
Avoid the “one size fits all” mentality by creating messaging that shows consumers across multiple demographics how they can fit your products or services into their everyday lives. Provide context through culturally driven content to demonstrate why your product offering is in-line with the modern consumers’ tastes and needs.
For example, La Morena, a family-owned Mexican brand that has been imported to the U.S. for more than 30 years, ran an influencer social media campaign during Hispanic Heritage Month last fall where both Hispanic and non-Hispanic “foodie” influencers used classic Mexican products and ingredients to create recipes that would appeal to a variety of tastes and backgrounds.
The content included both modern Pan-Latin fusion dishes and unique variations of classic recipes to fit their modern Latino tastes. A crossover “halo-effect” was created by including new hot flavor profiles (chipotle, for example) in dishes that might not be considered authentic Mexican and giving new twists and alternatives for traditional dishes. Their posts and recipes were “liked” and shared across generations and ethnicities bringing La Morena products beyond the confines of the Hispanic aisle.
By fitting the products to their contemporary needs, they redefined authenticity and showed off their ambicultural identities. This social campaign exemplified how a brand can utilize the universality of Latin culture to resonate with Hispanic and non-Hispanic markets alike.
Final note: Demographic tastes are no longer homogenous, and consumer groups will continue to become progressively interethnic. Marketers, retailers and brands that adapt strategies and messages to reflect a new mainstream marketplace that embraces both authenticity and the fluidity of culture will see greater success as the multicultural segment continues to grow. Business-based assumptions about assimilation must become a thing of the past or companies will risk not getting their piece of the new mainstream.