Checkoff research outlines how to grow key Hispanic market share

There’s a consumer group in the U.S. approaching 60 million people that will have $1.7 trillion in total buying power in the next year, spending more than $94 billion annually in consumer packaged goods, including food and beverages. Who are they? Hispanic consumers, and they play a key role in U.S. pork’s future.

“Hispanics have a strong affinity for pork,” said Jarrod Sutton, vice president of domestic marketing for the Pork Checkoff. “It’s the centerpiece of every holiday and major family celebration, as well as the staple protein in family dishes.”

You’d think statistics like this would be causing domestic pork consumption numbers to rise, right?

“Unfortunately, as Pork Checkoff research indicates, while affinity for pork among Latinos in the U.S. is high, purchase and consumption behavior tells a different story,” Sutton said.

The Checkoff’s third comprehensive research report on U.S. consumers, Time to Tango: Latinos are Pork’s Future, revealed how food retailers and packers can connect with these influential consumers, who represent the biggest growth opportunity of the next several decades.

“Pork is entrenched in Hispanic heritage and culture and is extremely relevant to the fast-growing and economically powerful Hispanic segment,” said José de Jesús, director of multicultural marketing for the Pork Checkoff.

“The pork industry must proactively engage them to better meet their needs,” de Jesús said. “Otherwise we risk losing Latino shoppers.”

As Hispanic consumers become acculturated in the United States, the link between pork and culture weakens. Often, they can’t find the cuts they want for traditional dishes in mainstream stores, so they either buy other proteins (ground beef and chicken). Or they shop at specialty stores that offer the service and the cuts they want. 

Nearly half of surveyed Hispanics do not choose mainstream retailers as their go-to store. They instead opt for specialty stores, ethnic markets and bodegas, which is a Hispanic mini-mart.

“The meatcase is a contributing factor to that shopping decision,” Sutton said. “More than 40 percent of Hispanics choose to buy their fresh meat at non-mainstream grocery stores. Helping retailers understand this ‘leakage’ and how to slow or stop it can help them sell more pork and drive the overall value of the entire shopping cart.” To maintain and increase loyalty among Hispanic consumers, the report outlines three key motivating factors that retailers and packers must address:

Accessibility

Most Hispanic consumers (79%) shop with another family member and seek stores that offer a family-friendly experience. More than half look for stores that offer cuts that are familiar to them and are used in the traditional dishes of their country of origin.

The shopping experience and value must meet Latinos’ expectations, and the cuts and preparations they want have to be more widely available in mainstream stores, the report noted.

“You can’t buy what’s not available,” said de Jesús.  “As a result, Latinos now must go the extra mile to find the type of pork they want. They are looking for stores that carry the right assortment and provide a more welcoming environment. Give them what they want, and you’ll earn the loyalty and business of this growing and powerful consumer segment.”

A more welcoming environment, says de Jesús, includes strategies such as having an in-store butcher who speaks Spanish, or better yet, who is from the same country of origin as the local Latino population.

Authenticity

Traditional family recipes are important to Hispanic consumers, but traditions vary by country of origin. What’s relevant to Cuban or Puerto Rican consumers will be different than those from Mexico or Central American countries.

Two of three Hispanics in the U.S. are originally from Mexico, but a third are from other nations. A “hyper-local” store-by-store strategy is best,  according to de Jesús.

“‘It’s the basic marketing principle for any business: Know your customer,” de Jesús said. “If I’m a retailer with a store in a neighborhood that has a significant Cuban or Puerto Rican population, I need to offer meat cuts, produce, spices and other products that are relevant to them. If I offer products that are relevant to consumers with Mexican ancestry, I’m not going to be successful.”

For retailers, understanding authenticity should extend beyond the meatcase.

“Having the right cuts available is key,” de Jesús said. “But also offering seasonings, spices and ingredients needed to complete traditional pork dishes is just as important.”

Health

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of unacculturated Hispanics mistakenly believe pork is unhealthy, the research showed. The industry must focus on the nutritional value of specific cuts, including pork’s protein profile.

“This is something that’s not limited to the Hispanic consumer segment,” Sutton said. “We continue to work with packers and retailers to feature protein and nutrition information on labels. We’ve got a great nutrition story to tell, but we need to make sure we’re telling it in ways relevant to Latinos, as well.”

He added, “There’s significant opportunity to capitalize on Latino affinity for pork. To turn into sales will require the entire pork industry to think and engage differently with these consumers.”

This is especially true with how rapidly the food industry changes, says David Newman, president of the National Pork Board. “Foresight and adaptability are the keys to survival,” Newman said. “It’s no longer enough to offer a Hispanic aisle or packaging in Spanish. We need to look at each area of the store and ensure we’re meeting Hispanic consumers’ needs in ways that are relevant to them.”

Jason Menke

Jason Menke

Director of Marketing Communications