As the U.S. Hispanic population continues its rapid growth, c-stores need to consider how they are catering to this important and expanding demographic.
Pew Research Center found that the Hispanic population in the U.S. hit 62.1 million in 2020, up 23% compared to the previous decade, and far outpacing the country’s 7% overall population increase during the same time period. By 2025, Hispanics are expected to account for 12% of all U.S. buying power, according to data from Insider Intelligence.
CStore Decisions spoke with Sylvia Klinger, founder of nutrition and culinary consulting company Hispanic Food Communications, to learn more about how retailers can attract and retain Hispanic shoppers.
CStore Decisions (CSD): What are the top three things convenience stores can do to better appeal to their Hispanic customers and why?
Sylvia Klinger (SK): Hispanics continue to be a significant growing population in the U.S. And you should know that Hispanic customers are seeking your attention. They too are looking for convenience stores that cater to their needs. Here are the top things you can do today to attract more Hispanic shoppers.
- Assess their needs — continually ask what they are looking for, and if you don’t carry their favorites, find them.
- Treat them with respect — go overboard with customer service.
- Respect and embrace cultural traditions — embrace their celebrations (Quinceañeras, baptisms, Christmas, Easter, Day of the Dead and Mexican independence are just a few of them.).
CSD: How do you see the needs of baby boomers and Gen X differing from those of millennials and Gen Z within the Hispanic shopper demographic?
SK: One of the biggest differences may be language. The older (baby boomers and Gen X) generations tend to master the Spanish language better, while the younger (millennials and Gen Z) generations may speak the language but may have difficulties writing in Spanish. Nevertheless, they feel connected with their Spanish language, therefore ads/posters should be displayed in Spanish or a combination of both English and Spanish.
Every generation seeks different food combinations. The older generations tend to look for traditional authentic dishes, while the younger generations are more accepting of combining traditional Hispanic foods with traditional American foods. Know that all want to be treated with respect regardless of age, culture, skin color, sexual orientation, etc. It is easy to display biases, but do not be deceived by looks. Get to know them personally, and always greet them by their name or nickname.
CSD: When it comes to fresh prepared food, how can retailers best appeal to Hispanic customers?
SK: Once you find out what fresh or prepared foods they love, either pair with a local vendor that can provide some of their favorites or ask your preferred vendor to provide you with their preferred foods. Then make sure you market them and remind them you have their favorite fresh prepared foods available.
Here are the top 10 dishes and their country of origin:
- Quesadillas — Mexico
- Baleadas — Honduras
- Pupusas — El Salvador
- Arroz con Leche — multi-countries use this dish
- Empanadas (beef, corn are most popular) — Argentina
- Arepas — Colombia
- Ceviche — Peru
- Tortilla Española — Spain
- Tacos — Mexico
- Sopes — Mexico
CSD: Hispanic shoppers come from different backgrounds depending on if their ancestors are from Mexico, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, etc. How can retailers ensure they’re offering the right products for the demographic they serve?
SK: The majority of Hispanics in the U.S. come from Mexico, but we can’t neglect the others. I recommend that you find out where exactly your c-store customers come from and make sure you provide the products and foods they are seeking. But know that Hispanics in general consume more rice, tomatoes, citrus fruits, whole milk, beef, eggs and legumes.
Recognizing national flavor differences can help you get a head start, especially between Mexican cuisine and Hispanic Caribbean cuisine, which are the largest groups in the U.S. Here is an example of the flavor differences between these two cuisines.
Mexican favorite ingredients: tomato sauce, chiles, pibil sauce, cinnamon, cumin, cilantro, thyme, marjoram, epazote and black/red beans. Beverages: horchata, Jamaica (agua fresca), Jarritos (sodas).
Caribbean favorite flavors: okra, black-eyed peas, greens, garlic, coconut milk, condensed milk, adobo seasonings and black/red beans. Beverages: malta (a dark non-alcoholic grain-based) and Coco Rico (soda).
CSD: What is the best way to market to Hispanic customers?
SK: Interact with your Hispanic customers. Get to know them personally and their families. Make an effort to greet them and talk with them so you may gain their trust and become part of their “family,” and their everyday routine.
CSD: What else do you want retailers to know about Hispanic shoppers?
SK: Know that Hispanics will stay loyal to your services, if you provide the products/foods they love along with top customer service.