America’s Hispanic population, the largest minority cultural group in the U.S., is expected to grow from over 60 million to 70 million by 2022, with a buying power that is projected to increase by an additional $400 million by 2023 from its 2018 total of $1.5 trillion, according to Jorge Martinez-Bonilla, vice president of the Hispanic Division of C+R Research, a Chicago-based multicultural market research firm, and the U.S. Census Bureau.
With all that money on the table, the potential is tremendous for c-store retailers who learn what their surrounding Hispanic communities want and develop marketing strategies targeted to them, Martinez-Bonilla said. He emphasized that reaching these consumers requires more than just translating their menus and other signs into Spanish.
“Hispanic is not a single group or monolith; the people come from a variety of different cultures bound only by the Spanish language,” he explained.
It is important, he noted, to know what countries are represented in the surrounding communities because each has its own traditions, specialty items and flavor profiles. Mexicans, he said, are likely to crave tacos, while Salvadorans are more likely to prefer pupusas, and Colombians and Venezuelans, arepas.
Outside of the prepared foods arena, stores can stock their bakeries with pan dulce, like conchas or other pastries and sweet breads, and their grocery aisles with familiar packaged snacks such as Takis chips in a variety of flavors, Martinez-Bonilla said.
Serving Latinx Customers
In addition to offering numerous Hispanic-inspired foodservice selections such as their signature beef and bean and “chile relleno-style” Hatch green chile burritos, Allsup’s, which has 304 stores in New Mexico, West Texas and Oklahoma and is owned by Yesway, appeals to Latinx snackers with its popular line of private-label hot sauce, flour and corn tortillas, Hatch green chile salsa and corn chips, noted George Banister, vice president of special projects for Yesway/Allsup’s. A new fall addition to the chips lineup is the Smokin’ Hot Nacho Tostada flavor.
The stores in Texas and New Mexico serve a clientele that is 43% Hispanic. Other favorite foodservice items in those stores are pork tamales, both hot and mild, and a chicken and cheese flauta, a deep-fried, filled, rolled-up tortilla, said Scott Stanfield, Allsup’s foodservice category manager.
Even customers who do not speak English are comfortable shopping in the stores, he said, as many of the employees are Spanish-speaking.
CEFCO Convenience Stores has 220 locations in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, a number of which serve a large Mexican clientele. Last spring, in two new Texas stores, the company introduced a made-to-order burrito station where customers choose from a variety of fillings and toppings as they go down a steam table line.
The made-to-order burritos will also be available in two other Texas locations currently under construction. At 40 other locations, customers can get their burrito fix with grab-and-go versions from the warmers.
Inviting their customers to play with their food, the burrito bar options include roasted corn with onion and jalapeño, “a tip of the hat” to elote, the grilled, seasoned street corn that is a wildly popular snack in Mexico. The stores also make their own pico de gallo.
“Many people think that authentic Mexican fare has to be just the traditional products and flavor profiles,” said Carlos Acevedo, CEFCO’s foodservice director. “But cutting-edge and fusion cuisine, like a breakfast burrito with maple-flavored bacon, can also be authentic if they respect and honor the culture.”
Acevedo explained that he looks at items that are regional, restaurant or street food favorites to stay “a little ahead of the curve” in introducing new products and flavor profiles. For instance, he is planning to add beef barbacoa and carnitas as limited-time offers on the burrito bar and has just added a chorizo and scrambled egg item to the breakfast menu.