Retail sales of multicultural produce on the rise - The Packer

Retail sales of multicultural produce on the rise

03/27/2009 12:00:00 AM
Jose Escobedo

(March 27, Asian/Latin Produce Marketing Profile) Asian and Hispanic communities have grown steadily in the U.S. and the numbers keep rising. Members of the produce industry think this trend presents excellent opportunities for retailers and the foodservice industry to market specialty foods, catering not only to minorities but to consumers in general.

Nevertheless, there are those who think they could make much more headway with this marketing angle.

“When we first started the business, we would only sell to niche markets and not the mainstream,” said Robert Schueller, public relations director for Los Angeles-based World Variety Produce Inc., which markets under the Melissa’s label.

“The numbers in the demographics for the U.S. 2010 census will tell huge differences, and many people are underestimating this melting pot of cultures living in the U.S. The Hispanic demography will be the majority of all minorities,” he said.

According to “Hispanics, Asians and Fresh Produce,” a 2006 study compiled by the Produce Marketing Association, Newark, Del., with 2004 statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population should reach 110 million people by the year 2050.

The study showed that 68% of the U.S. Hispanic population is Mexican, representing 9% of the total U.S. purchasing power, said Nancy Tucker, vice president of global business development for PMA.

Not only is the Hispanic population swelling, but Asian communities are expanding rapidly as well, and fresh produce companies are eager to cash in on this market.

PMA public relations director Julia Stewart said the U.S. Asian population grew 49% in the 1990s and 29% from 2000-06.

“Asians spend more on food as a percentage of their income than any other racial group. They spend more on produce, dollar-wise, than Hispanics, because produce is more stable on their diets,” Stewart said.

About half of Asian Americans live in California, New York and Texas, Stewart said.

“There are 20 distinct Asian groups living in the U.S., but only the top six groups, which are Indian, Chinese, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese, make up 88% of the Asian U.S. population,” she said. “We would be dumb not to pay attention to these groups.”

The demographics show impressive numbers, but the shopping habits of these minorities are just as compelling.

Mike Marino, sales manager for Cimino Brothers Produce, Salinas, Calif., said, “Asians like to shop two or three times a week for their vegetables. They spend a lot of time in the fresh market place.”

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