Retail sales of multicultural produce on the rise

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

Not only is the shopping frequency impressive, but the purchasing power of Asian Americans ranks among the highest in the U.S.

Schueller said the average Asian household income in the U.S. is $55,026 or 28% higher than the national average. And Asian shoppers consume twice as much produce as the average American.

The good news is that while Asians and Hispanics come from parts of the world that are geographically located thousands of miles away from each other, their shopping habits are quite similar to each other.

“When it comes to choosing high-quality produce, the minorities have more in common with each other than with the mainstream market,” said Santiago Ogradón, a Hispanic advertising and marketing consultant in Los Angeles.

According to the PMA 2006 study, relationships between retailers and shoppers are vital to minorities. The use of Spanish and Asian-language signage and circulars is also important. Other elements both cultures have in common: The way fruits and vegetables are presented greatly influences buying, and price does matter, but not at the expense of quality.

Although these minorities represent many opportunities for retailers, some industry experts think marketing specialty items to minorities and mainstream consumers is sorely lacking.

“Stores located in suburban areas are not catering to the market clientele yet,” Schueller said. “They may carry cilantro, jicama, hot peppers, jalapeños — all essential ingredients — but selection is very limited, and not competitive as far as pricing is concerned.”

Many types of specialty items are mainly found in bodegas — independently owned and operated markets or grocery stores run by Latin Americans or Asian Americans — and not so much in the big retail chains, said Jim Perkins, president of ULATAM Retail Solutions, Chicago.

Perkins, author of “Beyond Bodegas — Developing a Retail Relationship with Hispanic Customers,” said forging a relationship between retailers and Hispanic customers is extremely important. He suggested retailers learn more about their Hispanic customers’ cultural values and what shoppers expect from retailers in order to add ch-ching to their cash registers.

“Mainstream markets believe that the background is not important and that their messages are explicit. The word that is being conveyed contains the majority of the information, and this is not true,” Perkins said.

“First-time generations and recent arrivals need to feel that the store portrays a friendly environment and that someone is going to help them,” he said. “This is extremely important if retailers want to retain them.”



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