Not only are Hispanics the nation’s largest minority group, they are the fastest growing, according to a 2012 report by the research firm Nielsen. As this segment continues to grow, so will its impact on retailers.
The research firm Technomic reported that by 2060, Hispanics are expected to comprise 31 percent of Americans. Hispanic Americans are a fast-changing population in terms of both demographics and in their needs and desires as consumers, Technomic reported. To stay relevant, retailers, particularly foodservice operators, need to stay current on the expectations of this market segment.
Anne Mills, manager of consumer insights for Technomic, shared these ten tips for how truckstop and travel plaza operators can attract and better serve Hispanics.
- Offer fresh, healthy food options. More than seven out of ten Hispanics said leading a healthy lifestyle is important to them, and 43 percent of Hispanic consumers said they choose better-for-you options when they dine away from home.
- Incorporate Hispanic culture into a restaurant’s concept. According to Technomic’s His- panic Foodservice Consumer Trend Report, two out of five Hispanics said menus that feature at least some Hispanic flavors or ingredients are highly important at limited- and full- service restaurants. Mills added that having signs in both English and Spanish or some Spanish language on the menu can attract Hispanic customers.
- Make it authentic. Twice as many Hispanics (44 percent), compared to 21 percent of the general population, said they would pay more for food de- scribed as authentic. Mills said that applies to non-Hispanics as well. “I think you’re seeing even non-Hispanics that want their food and beverages to be real. Authenticity is very important to them even if it isn’t as much as the Hispanic population.”
- Focus on the family. The Technomic report showed that 46 percent of Hispanic consumers said that a family-friendly atmosphere is one of the five most important restaurant attributes they look for when deciding where to eat. “Family is really important to Hispanics,” Mills said. “Incorporating those family friendly elements that are important to Hispanics could also attract non-Hispanics.”
- Invest in mobile platforms. A greater proportion of Hispanics use the internet via mobile de- vices than at home, Technomic reported. “Mobile platforms are important to Hispanic consumers, but that is something that is becoming more important overall,” Mills said.
Hispanic Customers’ Preferences Vary By Region
While there are general trends that offer key insights into Hispanic consumers, Anne Mills, manager of consumer insights for Technomic, said operators should take it a step further and research who is coming in and out of a location, which will help them pinpoint the food and products their consumers want.
“Ask consumers questions and pay attention to who comes in and out of the store or restaurant,” she said.
One question operators may want to ask Hispanic customers is where they are from. “It is not only looking at where the Hispanic population is but digging into the ethnicity even further to learn about their country of origin. Food preferences may vary by region because of where Hispanics come from and gravitate,” Mills said. “In Miami you may have more Cubans whereas in LA you may have more Mexicans.”
Technomic’s 2013 Hispanic Foodservice Consumer Trend Report shows that Hispanic customers’ preferences vary by region. For example, more Hispanics living in the West (41 percent) and Midwest (43 percent) than in the Northeast (22 percent) and South (26 percent) said they love hot sauce and use it on a wide variety of foods.
Hispanics living in the West (37 percent) and Midwest (39 percent) place higher importance than those in the Northeast (22 percent) and South (27 percent) on coupons or other deals when deciding which foodservice location to visit. Hispanic consumers who live in the South are more likely than those in other regions to choose a chicken entrée at lunch (41 percent vs. 35 percent overall), whereas those in the Northeast are more likely than those in other regions to eat pizza at lunch (41 percent vs. 31 percent overall).
Catering to the Hispanic Travel Plaza Customer
In certain regions of the country, truckstop and travel plaza operators can see a spike in Hispanic customers during certain times of the year. Herb Hargraves, director of fuel and retail sales at Cash Magic, sees an increase each fall and winter.
“Louisiana is the sugar cane capital, and every October, November and December is sugar cane harvesting season. Sugar cane farmers normally hire an influx of Hispanics to come into south Louisiana to harvest sugar cane and truck it,” Hargraves said.
Hargraves carries certain items in his stores that appeal to the Hispanic population.
“Fanta in a glass bottle is a big Hispanic draw. There is a line of pastries that we carry that is directly geared to the Hispanic population. It is from Prairie City Bakery, but the products have Hispanic or Mexican names on them,” he said. “Their big novelty item purchases are usually big flashy, belt buckles and hats.”
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