The Southwest region of the U.S. is a diverse area with deserts and crop-growing areas, mountains and canyons, and sparsely populated rural areas and densely populated cities.
In some areas, especially along the border with Mexico, most of the population is of Hispanic origin. Other markets, such as Las Vegas and the Phoenix metropolitan areaa, are influenced by tourists and winter residents.
“You have to be careful when you’re talking about any market and anytime you start lumping lots of geography together and try to talk about them as a whole,” said Greg Reinauer, senior vice president of Amerifresh Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz.
“Each market has its own unique needs.”
Arizona’s fresh produce market, for example, is influenced by its many resort destinations, while Nevada’s market is influenced by its gaming industry, Reinauer said.
New Mexico, west Texas and Utah have less dense populations, which affect their markets. Each area has its own demographics and needs.
Hispanic residents in southwestern states influence food choices in supermarkets and restaurants. The region has stores tailored to the preferences and budgets of its population.
Some fresh fruits and vegetables that might be considered specialties in other parts of the country are considered everyday items in the mercados, which feature items that appeal to Hispanics.
Nick Delgado, owner of Quality Fruit & Vegetable Co., El Paso, Texas, a produce distributor for western Texas and New Mexico, said the markets he serves — the El Paso and Albuquerque, N.M., areas — have strong Hispanic bases, but some consumer preferences are different.
For example, his customers in Albuquerque prefer larger fruit than do those in El Paso. He sells more large peaches (sizes 36-48) to Albuquerque and more medium peaches (sizes 60-80) to El Paso buyers.
The difference could be that families in El Paso are larger, Delgado said. Shoppers might prefer to buy more small peaches so each family member can have one.
Another difference between Albuquerque and El Paso is income levels. Delgado said El Paso tends to have lower incomes than Albuquerque.
The El Paso market is strongly influenced by its location on Mexican border.
West Texas and New Mexico have strong markets for fresh produce because Hispanics tend to consume more than the average amount of fresh fruits and vegetables, Delgado said.
Barry Zwillinger, partner in Legend Distributing LLC, Glendale, Ariz., said competition is especially intense in Phoenix, which makes the market unique from others.