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Island Pacific Supermarkets’ National City location will be part of the Multicultural Retail 360 Summit’s Cultural Immersion Tour, one of the annual event’s most popular attractions.
The Filipino chain joins Vine Ripe, Vallarta Supermarkets and Northgate Gonzalez Markets, which have already committed. The hands-on educational Tour, which takes place August 24, marks the beginning of the three-day Summit in San Diego.
Island Pacific caters to the San Diego area’s Filipino population, which is one of the largest in the U.S. Vine Ripe specializes in Middle Eastern fare. Both Vallarta and Northgate target Mexican-Americans and are considered benchmarks in Hispanic food retailing.
Island Pacific Supermarkets offer a full range of perishable and shelf-stable foods popular among Filipinos along with traditional items prepared for takeout, as well as food courts. Founded in 2000, the company operates 19 stores, including 17 in California, one in Seattle and one in Las Vegas. In addition to targeting Filipinos, Island Pacific “aspires to promote Filipino cuisine to the rest of the world,” according to its website.
Despite having a much smaller footprint than competitor Seafood City, Filipinos give Island Pacific overwhelmingly positive ratings on Yelp.com. Many of these reviewers are assimilated or second generation shoppers. The following description and review is from a recent Yelp user:
“Presyong Sulit! A quaint, ethnic supermarket catering to all your Filipino needs. Weekly specials advertised in the Filipino newspapers keep customers coming. Whether it is fried tilapia, pompano, head-on shrimp or pork belly, many a meal has been made courtesy of Island Pacific. The butchers are quick with the complimentary cleaning, cutting and frying.
“Middle aisles have Filipino packaged goods, such as soup mixes, canned goods, noodles, jars of halo halo mixes etc. Various kakanin & merienda bites are available to purchase, including pan de sal, biscotti, puto and bibingka galapong.
Located close by, with the meat, seafood and produce I enjoy, there's no doubt I'll be back for more salty, oily, sugary, fatty goodness that is Filipino food.”
About California’s Filipinos
The first wave of Filipinos arrived to the U.S. in the 1960s. Today, San Diego County, along with Los Angeles, has one of the state’s largest Filipino populations. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 45 percent of all Filipino immigrants in the U.S. live in California, followed by Hawaii (just 6 percent), then New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Texas (1 percent for all four states combined).
Filipino cuisine, like Filipinos themselves, is a mix of several cultures. Dishes feature recipes, ingredient and cooking styles that trace their roots to Malay, Chinese, and Spanish cultures, among many others. This makes Filipino cuisine unique.
Vallarta (www.vallartasupermarkets.com): Fifty-six percent of shoppers who frequent this location, also in National City, are Latino. But what makes this store unique is that 9 percent are African-American, a demographic that this nimble retailer has not failed to notice. The store opened in 2011.
In 1985, Vallarta was founded as a small meat store in Van Nuys, Calif., by Enrique Gonzalez, an immigrant from Jalostotitlan, Jalisco, Mexico. He was later joined by his four brothers, son and a nephew. Vallarta grew to include more locations throughout the San Fernando Valley. In 2011, Vallarta opened stores in National City as well as in Anaheim and Santa Maria. Today, there are 48 stores. Later this year, they will be joined by a new location, the third in the Fresno market.
While it is not the lowest priced retailer, Vallarta is known for its hands-on customer service. The motto in its full-service butcher shop is, “Corte al gusto” (cut to your preference). The seafood department is well known for its fish ceviche, shrimp ceviche, imitation crab ceviche, seafood mix ceviche and “camarones ahogados.” All ceviches are made daily on site. There is also shrimp from Mexico and Ecuador, salmon from Chile and red snapper from Brazil.
Two unique parts of Vallarta’s product mix are its liquor and “La Isla” departments.