Offering Healthier Hispanic Choices

As convenience retailers are changing up their menus to include healthier food offerings, there’s an opportunity to expand the menu, which will make Hispanic consumers surely take notice.

By Sylvia Klinger

Previously, Texas and California were the states most associated with large Hispanic demographics. But as internal migration and natural population trends advance, other states have seen their Hispanic communities grow as well.

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Because a significant number of Latinos visit convenience stores daily—and because foodservice has become an integral category for convenience retailers, the opportunity to offer something unique is a possibility.

Moreover, the opportunity to provide enticing, tasty and better-for-you food choices can be profitable.

As Hispanics become the fastest-growing ethnic group in the U.S., their purchasing power grows even stronger. According a June 2018 report from IRI, Hispanics spend more than $94 billion on consumer packaged goods per year. Within that total, Hispanics spend about $25 million on general food and about $13.3 million on refrigerated food.

So how can retailers get a larger slice of that purchasing power pie, while maintaining sensible, nutritious menu options that can carry over into their regular foodservice program.

First look at the foods and ingredients that will likely entice your Hispanic customers and see if they aren’t so far off of what you are already doing in terms of menu planning. In many cases, adding a piece of produce or a different meat can broaden your menu considerably.

The great variety of ingredients found in typical Latino meals is actually healthier than one might assume. Below are some suggestions of healthy food selections that can make patrons take notice.

Seafood & Fish. Packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel are discussed because they provide protective benefits for the heart. However, some of these seafood choices don’t always translate into a regular convenience store menu. With a little preparation and planning, fish and some seafood options liven up any lunch or dinner menu.

Latino classics dishes: Fish tacos, shrimp cocktails, ceviche, etc.

Grains. Healthy grains are an essential part of a good diet so making them available can produce positive results.

Latino classic dishes: Hot oatmeal, hot Mexican chocolate, corn on the cob, whole wheat sandwiches and whole wheat tortilla enchiladas are high in health and might translate to other customers looking to trade calories for a more nutritious option.

Seeds & Nuts. As every Latino knows, a day is not complete without las meriendas (snacks). As the experts say, when you opt for seeds and nuts, in moderation, you are taking in good fats and avoiding bad fats which can damage your heart.

Latino classic dishes: Peanuts, pistachios, walnuts and almonds are considered “high quality nuts.” Eat them straight-away, sprinkled with chili powder or on yogurt or a favorite soup or salad to spice up the regular convenience store offering.

Fruits and Veggies. This should be obvious, but fruits and veggies are king when it comes to protecting our bodies from many chronic diseases. Fruits and vegetables provide vitamins, minerals and all types of essential nutrients to keep consumers healthy.

Latino classic dishes: Add bell peppers and mushrooms to egg omelets, incorporate cactus (nopales) with scrambled eggs or bean dishes; snacks of sliced mangos, guava or papaya are sure to ring a popular note for Hispanic customers hoping to shun the indulgent lines of snacks and food choices.

Below is a list of suggestions that may appeal to your Hispanic consumers. The trick is to promote them the same way popular indulgent items are promoted in the same space.

Fresh Produce. Most Americans don’t eat enough produce, but more people are interested  in where their produce comes from. When devising how to introduce more produce into your foodservice program, consider incorporating items from farmer’s markets and other local sources. Some items that can attract Hispanic consumers include:
• Bananas;
• Mangos;
• Avocados;
• Corn in the cup with crema and queso fresco; and
• Chopped fruit (offer chili powder on the side).

Other Protein Items. Although meat, including beef, poultry, pork, fish and seafood, is an excellent source of this essential nutrient, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to meat protein. Below are some other non-meat and meat options that can be incorporated into a Hispanic menu.

• Spicy nuts and seeds (peanuts) such as cacahuates con chile (Sabritas Japoneses Cachuates Estilo Japones is a favorite peanut snack). Also, pepitas or pumpkin seeds;
• Tuna fish; and
• Tamales with pork filling.

Beverages. Hispanics and Latinos are big on beverages.
Who isn’t? Look at some options with an authentic flair to further entice this demographic.
• Drinkable yogurts with Latino flavors,
• Horchata, and
• Low fat strawberry and chocolate milk.

Dairy. Because dairy foods are big in Hispanic culture, offering just a few options can be profitable.
• Queso fresco, and
• Crema (Mexican style sour cream).

Snacks. Lastly, what is a day without a snack? And, there are healthy options to choose from.
• Fruit popsicles with favorite/familiar flavors such as
watermelon, coconut, tamarind, tangerine, lime, etc.;
• Low-fat flan;
• Pan Dulce in small sizes; and
• Baked chips such as baked plantains, yucca chips and other baked vegetable chips.