Cultivating Hispanic Foodservice

C-stores can provide a fresh look at navigating the factors of health while at the same time connecting better to Hispanic communities.
By Sylvia Klinger

As we face a significant amount of change in the retail industry as a population as a whole in the U.S., Hispanics aren’t exempt from these changes.

More than ever, convenience stores must step up their game and not only deliver on quick food items, but must cater to the specific health needs of Hispanics, especially when it comes to the care of the Hispanic decision makers and nutrition gatekeepers—the Hispanic female.

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The Latino population in the U.S. has reached nearly 58 million in 2016 and has been the principal driver of U.S. demographic growth, accounting for half of national population growth since 2000. A new Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data finds that the growth and dispersion of the U.S. Latino population has slowed since 2007, when the Great Recession started. Immigration from Latin America has cooled.

That’s not to say that the Hispanic population is less influential when it comes to buying power. As younger Hispanic consumers come of age, the opportunity for convenience retailers to serve this important consumer group looms large—especially when it comes to foodservice.

The Hispanic population is still young. According to the latest Mintel 2017 report, there are as many Hispanic Millennials as Generation X and baby boomers combined.

Spanish still reins in most Hispanic homes. The majority of Hispanics are still bilingual. About 70% speak Spanish or a combination of Spanish and English at home.

Biculturalism is what Hispanics do best; Hispanics are gravitating toward a bicultural environment more than ever. For example, it’s interesting to note that while Hispanics are still rooted in their culture and celebrating traditional Hispanics holidays, they are also assimilating a number of American traditions like the Fourth of July barbecue at home.

Likewise, Hispanic mothers play a significant role in their homes. For example, 77% of Hispanic moms consider their own mother as the most valuable source of information and advice. So their influence in the family is most critical. That’s because matriarchal females are the ones passing their Hispanic culture to the next generations.

However, Hispanic women experience several unique health issues throughout the various life stages, and some of the most chronic diseases that affect both genders can affect women differently—an important point to keep in mind as you stock your shelves for your costumers We know that some of these chronic diseases disparately affect Hispanics. Looking further at the Hispanic population:
• Hispanics suffer a 50% higher death rate from diabetes.
• In addition, 24% of Hispanics suffer high blood pressure that’s more poorly controlled than non-Hispanic whites. Conversely, Hispanic women with high blood pressure are twice as likely as men to get it under control.
• There are 23% more obesity cases linked to Hispanics than non-Hispanic whites.

It is important that retailers understand what wellness means to women today. Hispanic women are also more concerned with health and wellness than in the past, but they often put the needs of others before their own. Hispanic women play many roles and that can lead them to feeling stressed, overwhelmed and under appreciated. All of which can lead to an unhealthy lifestyle.

The quest for health and balance relies on health professionals and the retailers.
Also, age matters. Women’s motivation to eat better varies substantially from generation to generation, another key thing to think about in stocking the shelves of a c-store.

However, there are many other reasons why they are not eating healthy—food pushing, clean plate rules, conflicting information, friends adopting fad diets, lack of time to prepare balanced meals and trying to please everyone in the household.

What motivates/helps Hispanic women adopt a healthier lifestyle is moving into a more holistic approach to eating. There is a movement towards eating more fruits and vegetables, making small, positive changes to their diets, drinking more water, cutting back on added sugars, eating more whole grains and reducing portion sizes.

All of these products are in abundant supply in neighborhood c-stores.
Although all these holistic changes sound promising, they are still looking for more sizzle and adventure in their foods. Therefore it is a key reminder that food offerings have the following food and cooking components:
• Bold new flavors and spices;
• Plant-centered meals;
• Balanced meals featuring – protein + grain + veggie;
• Creative new ways to eat more veggies;
• Ancient grains;
• Ethnically-inspired foods; and
• Vegan desserts and drinks.

How can convenience stores be the ally for Hispanic women?

Retailers can offer a more holistic solution by providing a variety of fresh foods when possible, and also providing individually-portioned options, which stretches a retailer’s operational budget, but not consumers’ waistlines. Another nutrition tool that convenience stores can offer are pre-portioned, packaged meals—specifically frozen meals that promise nutritional benefits.

Many of these address portion control, and there are now a plethora of options that include whole grains, lean protein and more vegetables, providing essential nutrients and a variety of culinary-inspired options. One brand in particular that does a great job of this and caters to the busy woman is Lean Cuisine.

Of course, more and more c-stores are providing fresh foodservice alternatives in a timely manner. This convenience factor is important because it resonates with the female Hispanic population.

Their pre-portioned meals can help Hispanic women (and others) with portion control and also can reduce the complexity of meal planning, decision making, provide a fixed-calorie level and help with self-monitoring. They also provide a quick and convenient meal that is budget friendly and good for you.

Sylvia Klinger, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer, is founder of Hispanic Food Communications in Hinsdale, Ill., a food communications and culinary consulting company. A Hispanic native, she is a leading expert in cross-cultural Hispanic cuisine as it relates to nutrition and health.