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    Ethnic Food Popularity Grows

    Hispanic grocery shoppers could be key target market.

    PROVIDENCE, Mass. -- Chain supermarkets like Stop & Shop and Shaw's are keeping pace with demographics as they are finding profits fueled by ethnic populations, according to a report in the Providence Business News. It's a move that has led to the creation of whole departments that target communities of ethnic minorities, the newspaper reported.

    For example, Stop & Shop has come out with its private label Mi Casa line to compete with Goya.

    According to Providence-based MultiCultural Foodservice & Hospitality Alliance, in 2001 the Hispanic population in the United States spent 15 percent more on food consumed inside the house than the overall population. And, the group found that Hispanic populations are the most brand-loyal in the United States, according to the report.

    Additionally, the U.S. Census reports the number of Hispanics grew from about 9 percent in 1990 to 12.5 percent in 2000. In Providence, Hispanics are the fastest-growing sector of the city.

    The Food Marketing Institute adds that the purchasing power of the Hispanic population nationally has increased by 160 percent over the past decade to $542 billion in 2001.

    "It's not rocket science," said Kenneth C. Herbst, a professor of food marketing at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia. "If you can begin a positive relationship between your store and the Hispanic population, you are apt to have a loyal customer base."

    Rick Stockwood, spokesman at Stop & Shop, said his company has been expanding its offering of ethnic foods exponentially over the years as such statistics have become more commonplace, the report stated.

    "The (demographics) are changing so rapidly," he said in the Providence Business News "We always look to a community to make sure our stores meet the needs of the customers there. The company has been doing this for a while."

    Stockwood adds that about 50 of the 342 Stop & Shop stores have aisles devoted to Hispanic products.

    At Shaw's, spokesman Terry Donilon said the chain is opening what they call Neighborhood Format Stores in ethnic communities. He points to a store in Providence on Atwells Avenue where Federal Hill, Mount Pleasant and Olneyville converge. There, the store has devoted an entire aisle to imported sauces, salsas, pastas and other goods common to the two cultures, the newspaper reported.

    "The shopping needs of these two populations are vastly different," he said. "We've recognized this at the Atwells location and are refining it even further."

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