Nielsen research shows multicultural groups spend more in fresh departments than white non-Hispanics, although they don’t all shop in the same way.
Overall, African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics spend $40 billion on fresh products each year, Nielsen found. Multicultural consumers spend 21% of their annual food spend in perimeter categories, which is 4% more than white non-Hispanics, and they make 3% more trips containing fresh items.
One reason for the disparity is that, unlike some other segments of the population, multicultural consumers know how to cook, said Sarah Schmansky, Nielsen’s director of fresh.
“They have recipes. And they are looking for those ethnic flavors and products to really supplement their meal ingredients and their cooking behaviors. And I think that’s why a lot of those consumers are really turning to fresh because it’s where you can find some of those unique items to be a part of your ingredient list,” said Schmansky.
At the same time, multicultural groups shop the perimeter in different ways. For example, Asian Americans spend considerably more on produce as a portion of the total basket than other groups, and they tend to buy more green beans, garlic and sprouts.
“Things that can add to the recipe and kind of make it their own are products that Asian Americans over-index on,” said Schmansky.
Hispanics over-index slightly in the produce department, buying products like limes, avocados and pineapples. African Americans, on the other hand, devote less of their basket to produce; however they over-index in produce beverages such as juices.
In general, multicultural consumers are not buying as much value-added produce as white non-Hispanics.
“You may say that that is because multicultural consumers know how to cut a pineapple. They know how to cut a mango. And so they don’t need that,” said Schmansky, adding multicultural consumers may not be willing to pay more for the convenience.
“And so I think it’s all about the opportunity to showcase the value proposition, to all consumers, not just multicultural consumers, so that you can gain new shoppers to areas that are really growing across the perimeter,” she said.
Other popular departments for certain multicultural groups are meat and seafood. African Americans spend 44% of their total fresh dollars in those areas of the store, purchasing chicken wings, chicken thighs, crab, catfish and pork ribs.
Asian Americans spend twice as much on seafood as white non-Hispanic consumers. They also prioritize non-branded products in seafood, spending only 35% of their fresh seafood dollars on branded products compared to the 55% African Americans and white non-Hispanics devote to branded seafood.
When targeting any multicultural group, Schmansky stressed it is important for retailers to have authentic products and flavors, because these consumers will seek out stores that stock those items.
“They’ll be willing to drive two neighborhoods over to get that authentic cut of meat or those specific Cuban rolls. And so having that versus some of the more popular convenient offerings may help to drive that consumer group into the traditional supermarket,” said Schmansky.
Another important finding was that multicultural Millennials tend to shop more like the average Millennial than the average multicultural consumer. Yet, that may not hold true as those shoppers get older.
“But I think the most interesting things is that they often return back to their cultural roots as they age, as they have families and bring kids into the picture,” said Schmansky. “They want to make the meals they grew up on for their own children. And so it’s really a delicate balance in terms their needs and preferences now versus what they will be in five or 10 years as their households and their lifestyles continue to change.”