AMERICANIZATION OF CONSUMERS AFFECTS SHOPPING PREFERENCES

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- Findings from the ACNielsen Homescan Hispanic Consumer panel reveal a strong correlation between shopping behavior and the level of acculturation among Hispanic consumers.The findings, released at the recent Food Marketing Institute trade show, show that language preference, a measure of acculturation, is a factor in both what Center Store products consumers buy and where they

SCHAUMBURG, Ill. -- Findings from the ACNielsen Homescan Hispanic Consumer panel reveal a strong correlation between shopping behavior and the level of acculturation among Hispanic consumers.

The findings, released at the recent Food Marketing Institute trade show, show that language preference, a measure of acculturation, is a factor in both what Center Store products consumers buy and where they buy them.

The panel consists of more than 700 Hispanic households in Los Angeles. Each household is equipped with a handheld scanner and household members use the scanners to record purchases of products with UPC codes. ACNielsen worked with Access Worldwide, a Hispanic marketing company, to segment panelists based on their language preferences. The Hispanic population was divided into three linguistic segments; Spanish only/preferred, bilingual and English only/preferred. The English only/preferred group exhibits the highest level of acculturation.

According to Isabel Valdez, president of Access Worldwide, the needs of the Spanish-speaking consumer are particularly resonant at this time. The largest percentage of the adult Hispanic population are in the first two language segments, said Valdez.

The research revealed a particular disparity in the penetration levels (percentage of households that bought a product at least once between Feb. 28, 1999, and Nov. 27, 1999) of canned and frozen products. While 79.5 % of the English only/preferred population bought frozen vegetables, only 62.3% of the bilingual population and 57.2% of the Spanish only/preferred population purchased these products. In addition, 80.9% of the English only/preferred population purchased canned fruit compared to 66.4% of the bilingual population and 61.5% of the Spanish only/preferred population.

According to Valdez, many recent Hispanic immigrants are simply unaware of the existence of these products, because products geared toward speed and convenience are rare in their native countries. Cooking large meals from scratch plays a prominent role in the Hispanic familial culture, says Valdez.

The study also showed that the level of acculturation is a factor in determining where Hispanic consumers shop. Of the dollars spent by the English only/preferred segment on the salad and cooking oil category, 84% went to large grocery chains with annual sales of $2 million or more. Only 66.4% of Bilingual and 55.8% of Spanish only/preferred dollars in that category went to that channel.

The Spanish only/preferred and Bilingual populations spent more category dollars than the English only/preferred Population in "All Other Grocery" (smaller grocery stores) and "All Other Outlets," which includes neighborhood stores like bodegas.

According to Ken Greenberg, marketing director at ACNielsen Homescan, location is key. Many recent Hispanic arrivals have only one car per household, and it's easier to make a trip to the local convenience store than it is to trek across town to the larger supermarkets. However, accessibility is not the only factor. Many of the smaller shops have aggressively pursued Hispanic food products, and these neighborhood stores are more likely to be servicing the particular product needs of the Latino population, says Greenberg.

According to Greenberg and Valdez, many of the larger chains in Los Angeles have been successful in catering to the growing Hispanic market. For example, Lucky's has butchers specializing in Latino cooking styles at certain locations. A customer could go there looking for an Argentinian cut of meat and find what they're looking for, they said.

In addition, many large chains have been running effective bilingual promotions for several years, and it's also common to find a bilingual staff in areas with a large Hispanic population.