HISPANICS: ROTISSERIE CHICKEN IS MUY BUENO

MADISON, Wis. -- Supermarket delis can attract more Hispanic shoppers with a strong rotisserie chicken program, and offer authentic side dishes with it, a research report suggests.Since Hispanics are apt to buy rotisserie chicken at their supermarket, adding traditional Hispanic sides could seal their loyalty, and their word-of-mouth comments could lure more customers from the Hispanic community,

MADISON, Wis. -- Supermarket delis can attract more Hispanic shoppers with a strong rotisserie chicken program, and offer authentic side dishes with it, a research report suggests.

Since Hispanics are apt to buy rotisserie chicken at their supermarket, adding traditional Hispanic sides could seal their loyalty, and their word-of-mouth comments could lure more customers from the Hispanic community, the study concluded.

Nearly half (45%) of Hispanic subjects surveyed said they buy cooked chicken from their supermarket delis, and of that group, 63% said their cooked-chicken purchase would be whole roasted or barbecued chickens. Another 22% said their primary cooked-chicken choice would be fried pieces.

The data is contained in a 96-page research report just published by the International Dairy-Deli-Bakery Association here. The study, which involved 1,000 respondents and focus groups held in different parts of the United States, was conducted by Rosita Thomas, president, Thomas Opinion Research, Woodbridge, Va., earlier this year. Thomas presented study highlights at the IDDBA's annual convention.

Survey respondents and focus group members who participated in the study -- which examined buying habits and preferences -- said they would like to be able to buy Hispanic side dishes and chickens with authentic Hispanic spices, as well as have some assurance that rotisserie chickens are fresh.

"Instead of cooking a chicken, we'll buy a chicken from the supermarket deli. And then we'll get all my little favorite sides. Like today we got the croquettes and we got the brasalito [a big onion]," one Hispanic consumer in a Miami focus group said.

One retailer SN talked to said his company is catering to the Hispanic segment with side dishes and a particular spice rub on its rotisserie chickens and "there is a lot of word of mouth."

The grocery company, Fiesta Mart in Houston, offers Spanish rice, ranchero beans and refried beans on the steam table with hot rotisserie chickens, said John Eagleson, director of hot deli for the 41-unit chain, whose customer base includes a significant percentage of Hispanics.

"We sell a massive amount of rotisserie chicken, at least five times as much as fried pieces," Eagleson said.

He added that Fiesta Mart abandoned different flavored rotisserie chickens in favor of doing them all with a spice mixture that resembles a barbecue rub. It creates an appealing color on cooked birds.

"We tried different flavors, but this spice gives them a good, dark, brownish red color. The Hispanic customer likes a dark, crispy outside on the chicken and that's the only type we sell now."

The Thomas research showed that Hispanics born in the United States are significantly more likely than foreign-born Hispanics to buy cooked chicken at their service delis (51% vs. 38%). The study also showed that those residing in the Midwest, South and West are more likely than those in the Northeast to buy cooked chicken at their service delis.

Whether they're apt to buy roasted chicken or fried chicken, and whether they purchase it hot or cold, depends to a large degree on their country of origin and where they live in the United States, the survey showed.

Mexican-Americans are significantly more likely than Puerto Ricans and Central Americans to buy cooked chicken at their service delis, researchers found.

Whole roasted or barbecued chickens are apt to be purchased by higher income Hispanics ($36K or more), those ages 40 to 59 years, South Americans and European Hispanics.

Focus group participants in the study gave mixed reviews of service deli roasted or barbecued chicken. Those able to find well-spiced roasted chicken at their service deli were most satisfied.

Nine out of 10 (a full 90%) respondents who buy cooked chicken at their supermarket deli usually buy it hot, 8% buy it cold and 2% said they didn't know.

Many of those interviewed by the Thomas research team buy whole roasted chickens from stand-alone fast-food restaurants such as Granada and Pollo Tropical. In Miami, Hispanics who participated in the study said they prefer to buy rotisserie chicken at a bodega because it's fresher and is basted with mojito (a seasoning of oil, vinegar, oregano and garlic).

When asked to define freshness, focus group participants said they like to select a specific chicken right off the rotisserie. To them, warming lights are synonymous with "old."

The complete research report is available from IDDBA at (608) 238-7908.