Spending by Hispanic consumers for food at grocery and other food stores has grown more than 80% over the past decade, more than twice the growth rate registered by consumers on average. Hispanic consumers have long been a key element in the growth strategies of food marketers. With the continuing dispersal of Latinos into areas not traditionally known for substantial Hispanic populations, Hispanic food shoppers represent a rapidly growing segment of the customer base of grocers throughout the country.
Hispanic food shoppers offer a rich but potentially bewildering opportunity for food marketers and retailers. In Los Angeles, for example, stocking the shelves for the “Hispanic” food shopper means understanding the preferences and traditions of shoppers who are mainly Mexicans but also include a substantial population of Salvadorans and Guatemalans. In Miami food stores need to satisfy the expectations of Cubans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Hondurans and Nicaraguans. In New York they need to cater to Puerto Ricans and Dominicans along with shoppers from a wide variety of other countries in Central and South America.
Hispanic Food Shoppers in the U.S. offers critical insights into what food marketers and grocers can do to attract and retain the loyalty of Hispanic food shoppers. One key issue addressed by the report is whether new generations of U.S.-born Latinos have already changed the ground rules for connecting with Hispanic consumers through Spanish-language media and advertisements that appeal to their Latino heritage. Another thread running throughout the report demonstrates how the national heritage of Hispanic shoppers affects what they buy—and don’t buy—in food stores. The report also takes an in-depth look at how the diet, culinary preferences, shopping patterns and buying habits of Hispanic food shoppers create significant opportunities for marketers and retailers.
Scope of the Report
Hispanic food shoppers are defined as Hispanic respondents to Simmons National Consumer Study (NCS) who report that they shopped at any supermarket or food store within the past four weeks. Hispanic food shoppers number 31.6 million and represent 88% of the total population of Hispanic adults.
The report uses the terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” interchangeably. According to a 2012 report by Washington, D.C.-based Pew Hispanic Research Center (“When Labels Don’t Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity,”) 51% of those self-identifying as “Hispanic” or “Latino” have no preference for either term. Those expressing a preference choose Hispanic over Latino by 33% to 14%.
However, it is important to note that neither term fully captures how Hispanics see themselves. A majority (51%) of respondents to the Pew survey said they most often use their family’s country of origin to identify themselves (for example, “Mexican” or “Dominican”). Only 24% use either “Hispanic” or “Latino” most often, while 21% use the term “American” to identify themselves.
The size of the market is defined as expenditures by Hispanic consumer units on food at grocery and other food stores, or “food at home,” as measured by the Consumer Expenditures Survey of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). As defined by BLS, a consumer unit is functionally equivalent to the “household” category of the Census Bureau. According to BLS, a consumer unit comprises either: (1) all members of a particular household who are related by blood, marriage, adoption, or other legal arrangements; (2) a person living alone or sharing a household with others or living as a roomer in a private home or lodging house or in permanent living quarters in a hotel or motel, but who is financially independent; or (3) two or more persons living together who use their income to make joint expenditure decisions. Financial independence is determined by the three major expense categories: Housing, food, and other living expenses. To be considered financially independent, at least two of the three major expense categories have to be provided entirely, or in part, by the respondent.
The consumer data in this report come from several sources. These include Packaged Facts National Online Consumer Surveys conducted in January/February 2014 and April/May 2014, which reflect a panel of 2,000 U.S. adults (age 18+) that is balanced to the national population on the primary demographic measures of gender, age bracket, race/ethnicity, geographic region, marital status, presence or absence of children in the household and household income.
Another source is Simmons NCS for Fall 2013 from Experian Marketing Services, which was fielded from November 2012 through November 2013. (The report uses the Fall 2004 NCS in the case of 10-year-trend tables and figures.) On an ongoing basis, Experian Marketing Services conducts booklet-based surveys of a large and random sample of consumers (approximately 25,000 for each 12-month survey compilation) who in aggregate represent a statistically accurate cross-section of the U.S. population. The report also includes data from Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study (NHCS) for Winter 2014, which was fielded from January 2013 through March 2014. Simmons NHCS includes an additional set of questions specifically geared toward Hispanic consumers.
A number of other surveys are cited in the report including data from reports published by Pew Hispanic Research Center, The MSL Group/The Hartman Group, AMG Advisors and McKinsey & Company. The report is also based upon data collected from a wide range of industry sources, including company websites, trade publications, business newspapers and magazines, consumer blogs and releases from public companies.
SAMPLE INSIGHTS AND HIGHLIGHTS
· Hispanic food shoppers express a relatively high degree of confidence in their economic future.
· Since food preferences can vary considerably across national groups, one of the key components of a strategy to market to Hispanic food shoppers is to recognize the diversity of the Hispanic population in the United States.
· Fewer than 4 in 10 Hispanic food shoppers find Spanish-language labeling to be helpful and barely a third remember more about or pay more attention to products and services that are advertised in Spanish.
· Stores that present themselves as an enjoyable and even fun place to shop can gain a competitive edge with Hispanic food shoppers.
· Latino food shoppers with a high degree of attachment to their original culture are far more likely than food shoppers on average to agree that the kitchen is the most important room in their home.
· Over the past decade Latinos have begun to spend relatively more on packaged foods and less on fresh produce and meats. As a result, their food buying habits are beginning to mirror those of American consumers as a whole.
· With the exception of Puerto Ricans, Hispanics of all national origins prefer not to buy numerous mainstream American food products such as peanut butter, pretzels and pickles.
· Hispanic food shoppers account for roughly a quarter of all food shoppers with children at home and about a quarter of those with children under the age of six.
· Compared to food shoppers on average, Hispanics are significantly more likely to spend a weekly average of $150 or more on groceries.
· Packaged Facts Online National Survey data indicate that Hispanic consumers are significantly more likely than consumers on average to prefer to buy national brand name groceries.
· Compared to food shoppers on average, Hispanic food shoppers are much more concerned about preservatives, additives, antibiotics and hormones in meat and poultry, as well as the use of GMOs in animal feed.
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