For the Amor of Sabor: Hispanic Snack Trends Are a Hit

Posted in Millennials on September 4, 2017

jon-tyson-224556.jpgSay hola to the Hispanic snack surge. A richly diverse population expected to reach 106 million by the year 2050 (a 57% increase from 2015) according to the U.S. Census Bureau,1 Hispanic consumers constitute a large, coveted segment of purchasing power for the foodservice industry. The Selig Center for Economic Growth projects that their purchasing power will hit nearly $1.7 trillion by 2019.1

With culinary heritages that span South and Latin America, Hispanics represent not one monolithic group, but many different demographics. Their diversity puts Hispanic consumers at the forefront of multicultural influences making inroads into the foodservice mainstream.

Given the sheer size and complexity of this consumer group and its massive growth potential, the Hispanic market comes with great challenges and opportunities. Foodservice and restaurant operators who understand these demographic groups will be in a better position to tailor menu innovation to their preferences for a higher check average. Insights that lead to informed decisions about product assortments for Spanish-speaking consumer cohorts are the key to help maximize sales.

A Fiesta of Flavors from Mexico and More

As a geographic neighbor to the U.S. and homeland to a huge immigrant population in the U.S., Mexico looms large in the foodservice mindset, causing “Mexican” to often be mistaken for encompassing the diverse range of Hispanic heritages and cultures.

Caribbean Hispanics, such as those hailing from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Cuba, use spices to enhance flavor, but the spices they favor tend to have a lesser heat intensity that those used in cuisines from Mexico and Central America.1

While Mexican foods and flavors are often quick to become popular in U.S. markets, particularly in states such as Texas and California that share a border with Mexico, multicultural Hispanic consumers and non-Hispanic millennials are partaking in broader Latino cuisines.1 Arroz con pollo and pupusas are among the Central and South American foods that 48% of millennials surveyed by the market research firm Mintel have eaten over a three-month period.1

Hot Flavor Trends Help Drive Sales

"Hispanics are experiencing an increase in purchasing power and as a result an increase in their influence on retail grocery offerings and on foodservice offerings," says David Sprinkle, research director for Packaged Facts, a purveyor of market intelligence and custom research services.2 "But beyond mere purchasing power or even swelling population percentages, the foods and beverages that are part of the Hispanic heritage continue to make inroads into the diets of all American consumers because of a growing interest in and acceptance of new flavors, spices, and dining experiences."2

According to Packaged Facts, the market’s growth can be attributed as much to Americans’ greater receptivity to unique, exotic and authentic flavors as to Hispanic consumers composing an increasingly large portion of the total population and possessing huge purchasing power.2

Innova Market Insights cites the increasing range of chili peppers as representative of Hispanic-inspired flavor adventures. The foodservice data analytics and research firm estimates that 70% of new products containing chili peppers identify them by name, including arbol, ancho and poblano as well as well-known varieties such as chipotle, habanero and jalapeno.2

Tortillas are an example of a Hispanic food whose popularity as a snacking staple translates across demographic segments and elevates it to the mainstream. The tortilla market continues to evolve, driven by manufacturers’ use of on-trend flavors, better-for-you ingredients (such as ancient grains), a wide variety of formats, and clean label and free-from options.3

So What Do Hispanic Snackers Want?

Mintel research has zeroed in on the following key factors to consider when trying to appeal to the Hispanic market:4

  • Variety is the spice of sales: In a typical month, 65% of Hispanics surveyed purchase a minimum of seven kinds of snacks for their own enjoyment, while 59% buy nine or more different snack types for household consumption.

  • How sweet (and salty) it is: To satisfy a yearning for sweet treats, Hispanic snackers favor ice creams and ready-to-eat cookies. For salty snacks, potato chips, corn tortillas, and cheese snacks are among their favorites.

  • Low price is nice, but: While price is the main driver for Hispanic snack purchases, quality is also key. As a result, they gravitate to well-known, trustworthy brands.
  • Family matters: Hispanic consumers tend to select snacks based on what family members, particularly children, request. As a result, the brands consumed in Hispanic households tend to change as they become acculturated.

How are you tapping into the huge Hispanic market? Any insights into snack trends among the various ethnic segments under the Hispanic umbrella? Pour it on below.


1 Spencer, Joanie, "Hispanic influences on snacks," Food Business News, Apr. 14, 2016
3 Williams, Luann, "Hispanic-style Food and Drink Trends," Prepared Foods, Nov. 10, 2016
4 Progressive Grocer, "Look who's snacking," Aug. 28, 2015

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