ANGIER, N.C. -- Retailers are boosting their selection of Hispanic food and beverage favorites to create displays some shopper segments might describe as "muy caliente."
When the mercury rises, Fiesta IGA, based here, will stock up on cold bottles of Jarritos soft drinks from Mexico, in flavors like tamarind, mandarin orange and lime, in the two-liter size sought by the many local residents who work outdoors, said Frank Gonzales, owner of the independent chain of seven stores.
Cardenas Markets, with 12 locations in California's Inland Empire, will participate in summer family-oriented events, offering food samples of Hispanic and U.S. brands well-known to the mostly Mexican-born market, general manager Steve Vallance said. "There's a certain trust factor in the Kellogg brand name, or Coca-Cola, but they also have the desire to have burritos," he explained.
Similarly, while he tries to encourage acceptance of domestic consumer packaged goods brands through coupons and promotions, too, a promotion planned for the July Fourth holiday is centered around 1-2-3 brand laundry detergent. A contest connected to the event features a washer and dryer as the grand prize.
Serving the dynamic Hispanic market means not only keeping pace with consumers' varying degrees of acculturation and changing lifestyles, but stocking authentic brands and knowing how they're used.
Regardless of level of acculturation, convenience is becoming more important to Hispanics as their lives get busier, and Center Store can help meet their needs for quick, home-cooked meals, said Luis de la Mata, president of the Southern California division of Unified Western Grocers, a Commerce, Calif.-based wholesaler for independent retailers. Stores like Fiesta are increasingly replacing bagged beans with canned beans, reflecting the demand for convenience.
"Nowadays, you don't really have the stereotype where the husband goes out to work and the wife stays at home," de la Mata said. "It's not that they don't like buying or preparing their foods, but they just don't have the time."
And in addition to importing popular Mexican brands like Ariel detergent, Bimbo breads and Gamesa cookies, stores are re-importing well-known American brands' Mexican versions that are familiar to new arrivals.
"There's a recognition among retailers that their assortment needs to be broader and deeper [and] that there's power in having the ethnic brand in their assortment," said marketing consultant Terry J. Soto, president, About Marketing Solutions, Burbank, Calif. How shoppers use the product also will influence a store's pricing and merchandising strategy. "You want to make sure you have the right brands, it's merchandised in such a way that it's going to get their attention," said consultant David Morse, president of Los Angeles-based New American Dimensions. A staple item, even if it's an import, should be priced as such. For example, instead of canned tuna, a Hispanic-format store might pair crackers with cajeta, or dulce de leche.
In stores that serve mature Hispanic markets, Hispanic products aren't confined to one aisle, but are integrated in all departments where shoppers expect to find them. At Cardenas Markets, consumers find Nestle's La Lechera condensed milk with other canned milk products, and Penafiel sodas next to Coke and Pepsi brands. "When somebody wants soap, they go to the soap aisle," said Vallance.
As they acculturate and adopt mainstream shopping habits, the conventional wisdom among marketers says Hispanics become less brand loyal. But de la Mata sees Hispanics in his markets trading up rather than abandoning brands as they acculturate.
"As they get more successful, they're going to buy more quality brands," he said. "It's a question of pride."