HEARD AT EXPO COMIDA LATINA

NEW YORK -- A Latino energy drink, authentic frozen empanadas and organic guacamole were among the products featured at this year's Expo Comida Latina food and beverage show, held here three weeks ago.This year was the first time Whole Foods attended the event, according to a chain representative in attendance at the show. The official told SN that Whole Foods is interested in broadening the chain's

NEW YORK -- A Latino energy drink, authentic frozen empanadas and organic guacamole were among the products featured at this year's Expo Comida Latina food and beverage show, held here three weeks ago.

This year was the first time Whole Foods attended the event, according to a chain representative in attendance at the show. The official told SN that Whole Foods is interested in broadening the chain's Hispanic assortment, but said it's difficult to find such food and beverages that meet its product standards, which prohibit foods that contain artificial preservatives, colors, flavors, sweeteners and hydrogenated fats.

SN asked other retailer attendees to describe some of the ways they're catering to Hispanics, along with what interested them at the show.

Following are excerpts from their comments.

"Our Toms River, N.J., store has 75 feet of Hispanic foods, and our Bayville, N.J., store also has a large section. We're hoping to increase the size in two other stores: Red Bank and Ocean, N.J. Due to space, we won't be able to make it 75 feet. But we hope to make it at least 30 feet."

Larry Holbert

grocery, nonfood, and health and beauty care supervisor, Food Circus Supermarkets, Middletown, N.J.; operates 10 stores under the Foodtown banner

"We just put in an international food department in our North Bergen, N.J., store that's about 220 feet. Its core is authentic Spanish, but there's representation from other international foods. We may expand that to other stores."

Maria Jose Alvarez

ethnic category manager, Pathmark Stores, Carteret, N.J.

"We're currently conducting Hispanic sampling and demos in 50 stores. The effort is growing in that we now conduct the demos with bilingual demonstrators and multiple vendors."

Nick Noell

account executive, Stratmar Retail Services, operator of Elizabeth, N.J.-based Wakefern Food Corp.'s in-house product demonstration department

"I saw some packaged vegetables from Guatemala that interested me at the show. We currently don't have any Guatemalan foods, largely because the companies that provide them don't have U.S. distribution. We're working on getting the producer of the packaged vegetables connected with our importers so that they can get the product into the U.S."

Ed Carroll

general manager, Jungle Jim's International Market, Fairfield, Ohio