Perishables Buyer - November 2012

An Ethnic Spin

Rich Mitchell 0000-00-00 00:00:00

Meeting the protein needs of the expanding Hispanic and Asian shopper segments is crucial for meat merchandising success. Change or face the consequences. That is the situation facing many meat merchandisers as they decide how to deal with a rapidly evolving U.S. consumer base. As the number of Hispanic and Asian shoppers continues to expand, retailers must market the products preferred by those segments or risk losing potentially strong revenue streams. “Retailers have become creatures of habit in the meat selections they off er because selling those items have always worked,” says Danette Amstein, principal at Midan Marketing LLC, a Chicago-based marketing communications, market research and data analytics firm. “But sometimes they need to look differently at what needs to be done because the consumers coming into stores are different.” The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the Hispanic population, which totals more than 52 million, increased by 15.2 million between 2000 and 2010 and accounted for more than half of the total U.S. population increase of 27.3 million during that period. The 43-percent growth rate was four times the nation’s 9. 7 percent rate. U. S residents of Asian descent total 17.3 million, according to the 2010 U.S. Census. Th e 46-percent growth between 2000 and 2010 was more than for any other major race group. Such changes in shopper dynamics means that retailers must determine the characteristics of shoppers in each outlet and adjust their product mix accordingly if they are to maximize protein income. That includes pinpointing the level of enculturation,as first-generation immigrants oft en have different food preferences than second- or third-generation shoppers. “The second generation is more acculturated and will purchase more meat at mainstream supermarkets while first-generation Hispanics, for instance, are more likely to go to bodegas,” Amstein states. “It is important for retailers to understand how their customers shop because there is no one-size-fits-all in the meat case. Stores must carry cuts that meet the needs of consumers.” Indeed, Kari Underly, president of Range Inc., a Chicago-based fresh meat and perishables research, education and marketing firm, notes that first-generation shoppers tend to purchase the cuts that are most popular in their homelands. For many Hispanics, that includes thicker meats that are oft en are used in stews and other recipes, she notes. “Ethnic populations frequently use meat as an ingredient rather than as a center-of-the plate item and are seeking a richer and heartier flavor,” Underly says. “We have to find ways to deliver that.” And meeting the preferences of ethnic customers extends beyond the fast-expanding Hispanic and Asian sectors. Other growing shopper segments, such as consumers from the Middle East and Africa, have their own preferences, including recipes with goat and lamb. “Retailers over the last decade have been slow to convert their offerings to attract the changing population bases,” Underly states. “Many don’t think that ethnic consumers will shop at the grocery store. But retailers that don’t attract those shoppers will be left behind. They have to make sure they are in the game.” To determine the most appropriate proteins to merchandise, Amstein says retailers should speak to customers about their desires. “Most retailers have good knowledge of who lives within a few miles of the store, but they still have to ask customers about the items they want which are not being offered and their favorite dishes to prepare,” she states. “Customers respond to that dialogue and it doesn’t take much effort by the meat manager.” The Centennial, Colo.-based National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) reports that among the most popular Hispanic cuts and recipes are Milanesa, a thinly sliced pounded fl at steak; Ground Beef (Carne Molida), which is used for picadillo (ground beef cooked in tomato sauce), meatballs, stews and tacos; Ranchera, a thinly cut steak which can be from flank or skirt steak; Ribs (Costillas); and Beef or Shredding (Carne para Deshebrar), which can be from flank or skirt steak. Marketing such items is important as the NCBA reports that Hispanics prepare an average of four to five meals at home per week using beef compared to two to three times for the general population, and beef consumption is steady or increasing for a majority of Hispanics. Underly, meanwhile, says that Asian shoppers tend to like well-marbled meat and also often use meat as an ingredient. In addition to merchandising the appropriate cuts, she adds that it is important to have butchers who can talk with customers in their native language, and to display signage that details the best cuts for different dishes. It also is crucial to use the appropriate nomenclature on signs for the ethnic groups that the retailer is trying to attract. “Making beef selection, shopping and preparation easier is the best way to increase your business,” the NCBA notes.

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