RANDALLS VP STRESSES IMPORTANCE OF HISPANIC SHOPPERS

CHICAGO -- Randalls Food Markets is intensifying its efforts to cater to its Hispanic shoppers. And Mark Heckman, the Houston-based retailer's vice president of marketing, stressed that other supermarket chains should do the same."You don't have to be in Miami, Houston or Los Angeles to reap the benefits of better understanding the needs of Hispanics," Heckman said in a seminar at the Food Marketing

CHICAGO -- Randalls Food Markets is intensifying its efforts to cater to its Hispanic shoppers. And Mark Heckman, the Houston-based retailer's vice president of marketing, stressed that other supermarket chains should do the same.

"You don't have to be in Miami, Houston or Los Angeles to reap the benefits of better understanding the needs of Hispanics," Heckman said in a seminar at the Food Marketing Institute's annual Convention & Educational Exposition here. "As the number of Hispanics grows, our ability to proactively market to their needs will provide us with a strategic advantage over competition as well as grow the bottom line."

About 11.3% of the U.S. population is Hispanic, according to the U.S. Bureau of Census. And in 50 years, one of every four shoppers will be Hispanic.

"One of the most compelling reasons for retailers to understand this group of shoppers is that they're incredibly good customers," Heckman said at the seminar, called "The Consumer's Perspective."

Results of "Profile of the U.S. Hispanic Grocery Shopper" -- a new study by the Food Marketing Institute, Frito-Lay, Procter & Gamble and Mission Foods -- were released during the meeting. The report is based on surveys of more than 1,200 households -- including 998 Hispanic and 214 non-Hispanic -- between August and October, 1997.

Among the results: despite having incomes significantly less than the U.S. average (the annual median household income was $23,000 in 1994, compared with $32,000 at non-Hispanic households), the amount they spend at supermarkets is on a par with the national average.

"This large and rapidly growing Hispanic population requires a deeper understanding on the part of food retailers," the report states.

This year, Hispanics will have spending power of more than $273 billion, much of which will be spent in grocery stores, according to the report. Carbonated beverages, juices, cooking oil and dry pasta are among the Center Store items they purchase most frequently.

"Clearly, the Hispanic market for groceries is big business, and the need for authoritative information about Hispanic grocery shoppers is widespread," the report states.

Location is the major reason a Hispanic chooses a store. Many Hispanics want to keep in contact with their heritage and will often drive to shopping centers that make them comfortable.

Most respondents cited prices as the main reason they're satisfied with the store. Other important store traits: product mix, quality of service and cleanliness.

About half of the Hispanics consider it very important that the grocery store have Spanish-speaking personnel and bilingual signage, labeling and coupons. About one out of five avoids stores without Spanish-speaking personnel.

While coupons are important, only 14% said they always use coupons, while 44% said they never use them.

This is due, in part, to lower usage of newspapers. It's also because they don't like the trouble involved in clipping coupons.