SAN ANTONIO — With a series of personal appearances by a Latina artist last week, H.E. Butt Grocery Co. here is promoting a new line of Hispanic-themed tabletop housewares and other general merchandise items.
Among the stores visited by Cristina Sosa Noriega were H-E-B's newest Plus! store in Laredo, Texas, following other stops at H-E-B stores in San Juan, Mission and Rio Grande City, all in Texas.
The line of 54 stockkeeping units, called “My Loteria by Cristina Sosa Noriega,” includes ceramic platters and jars, stoneware mugs and plates, porcelain magnets, and grilling accessories from supplier Sandy USA, Springfield, Mo. The line launched in H-E-B stores this month. Prices range from $1.47 for a 6-inch plastic bowl to $27.97 for a 17-inch ceramic platter.
The artwork on the items comes from an updated bingo game Noriega created, “My Loteria,” which sells for $2.49. In advertisements, H-E-B promised to give the game to the first 100 customers. H-E-B declined comment on the program.
“Grocers spend millions of dollars branding their store name and their private-label products in an effort to positively differentiate themselves from their competitors,” said Robert Nocera, chief executive officer of Sandy USA. “Product and branding vehicles such as this offer grocers another avenue to positively differentiate themselves from their competition, while creating an emotional bond with their Latino customers.”
In the large H-E-B Plus! stores, the My Loteria line is displayed with grilling and tabletop products, an area that is usually near food, he said. H-E-B is including the product in a weekly televised cooking segment it sponsors. A second wave of product in the line, including more than 70 SKUs, is scheduled for September, he said.
With specialized products like these, the store appearances by Noriega “help personalize the connection that the product line is from a Latina artist, to honor both the heritage and the progress of Latinos in America,” Nocera said.
Non-Hispanics have also been receptive to the line, as “they welcome the depth of colors in the designs and its uniqueness in the marketplace,” he said.
This is not dissimilar to what Target does with its Robert Graves line, and Kmart with Martha Stewart, noted Jim Wisner, president, Wisner Marketing Group, Libertyville, Ill. “Food retailers are moving from the era of being good merchants into an era of being good marketers and product designers. The opportunity is there,” he said.
While the My Loteria by Cristina Sosa Noriega line now seeks to attract Hispanic customers, “it's quite likely that we will see growth of those style elements in the mainstream as well. People will buy [a line like this] simply because it looks good and they like it, and it fits with the mood they are trying to set,” Wisner said.
Latino customers have a strong relationship with supermarket retailers, shopping in those outlets with greater frequency, and spending more with grocers than any other demographic, Nocera said. “An outstanding opportunity for branding to the Latino market rests with food-related nonfood products. All the ingredients exist for grocers to take advantage of this opportunity,” he said.