REACHING MULTICULTURAL MARKET URGED AT FORUM

NEW YORK -- As Asian American supermarkets proliferate and find favor among a sizeable number of consumers, they will require more specialized support from packaged goods companies in the form of in-language and in-culture advertising, said one marketer at a forum on multicultural marketing here recently."It stands to reason that those mainstream brands that make a sincere effort at reaching the multicultural

NEW YORK -- As Asian American supermarkets proliferate and find favor among a sizeable number of consumers, they will require more specialized support from packaged goods companies in the form of in-language and in-culture advertising, said one marketer at a forum on multicultural marketing here recently.

"It stands to reason that those mainstream brands that make a sincere effort at reaching the multicultural market will be rewarded with better positioning within the store," said Larry A. Moskowitz, director of strategic marketing services for Kang & Lee Advertising, a New York-based firm specializing in the Asian American consumer.

Better shelf space will then help the brands build market share among the Asian American consumers and help them to better reach the general market consumers who also frequent these stores, Moskowitz added.

Cristina Benitez, president of Lazos Latinos, Chicago -- a marketing firm specializing in Hispanics -- told SN that Nuevo Latino food, from more than two dozen different countries, is being fused and blended in trendy restaurants in major markets. She expects that Center Store ingredients for this cuisine, such as bottled lime juice and coconut milk, will be big in grocery stores as Latin and mainstream consumers decide to reproduce these new, lighter meals at home.

The Latino population currently tends to be more traditional, Benitez said, looking for more fresh than frozen foods, but she predicts this will change as immigrants get more accustomed to today's fast-paced society.

During the three-day conference, which was sponsored by the Institute for International Research and held at the New York Helmsley Hotel, experts in the Asian, Hispanic and African American consumer behavior made presentations.

Clyde C. Allen, president of Allen and Partners, Plainfield, N.J., demonstrated how his marketing firm improved sales of Martell Cognac by using music tours in 11 cities tailored to the African American community. His advice is to match the consumer lifestyle with the event, be it sports, cultural, festivals and expositions or pure entertainment.

For ethnic marketing in supermarkets, Michael Allen, project manager for the firm, said it is most important not to take the African American brand loyalty for granted. But Wanla Cheng, principal in Asia Link Consulting Group, New York, said the same thing about Asian shoppers. "They have become frequent switchers," she said, adding that "Koreans are not involved in brands at all." Benitez said Hispanics, too, look for value as well as brand name.

All of these groups can be inner city customers, or suburban. Of Hispanics, 36% live in the suburbs, said Rika Levin, vice president, retail marketing, for Chase Manhattan Bank here. In New York City, they are the No. 1 ethnic group buying first homes. Their above-average household size -- 3.41 members -- makes Hispanics attractive to grocers as well as bankers, she told the group of about 50 executives who were in the audience. By the year 2020, the population of the United States will be 35% Hispanic.

Certain commonalities exist among African American, Asian and Hispanic groups and all are attracted to ads that show the extended family. Holidays, too, are times of prime food-buying, and African Americans do most of their food-shopping during Christmas, Mother's Day and Easter, said Andrew Morrison, president of Nia Direct, a coupon-direct mail firm based here.

The Chinese New Year, which is the same as the Vietnamese New Year, or Tet Festival, falls during January or February. "It's the biggest festival celebration among the Chinese and Vietnamese," said Vicky M. Wong, vice president, Dae Advertising, San Francisco, who attended. In July, Filipino Independence Day is another major festival that poses sales opportunities for grocers.

However, the second largest celebration for both these communities, during which families will get together for a big feast, is the Moon Festival (also called the Mid-Autumn Festival) which falls on Sept. 24 this year, she said.

"It's a major promotional opportunity for supermarkets and food retail companies," she added.