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TIME TO CATCH UP WITH MEXICAN FOOD CONSUMERS

Mexican food is the most popular cuisine among Gen Z and Millennial consumers. Ongoing changes in consumer shopping behavior challenge grocers to think bigger about how they merchandise and market the category.

Dollar sales of frozen Hispanic foods in natural and conventional outlets combined jumped 3.8% to $350.04 million during the 12 weeks ended Nov. 5, according to SPINS, the Chicago-based market research firm. Units were up 3.2% for the same period. Sales of appetizers and snacks, the largest category in the Hispanic foods category, improved 3.4% to $297.14 million while units expanded 2.9%. The biggest apps and snacks subcategory, tacos/taquito/flautas, registered a healthy 5.9% dollar gain and 7.0% unit growth.

Another key category, frozen burritos and pockets, saw its dollar sales edge up 1.0% to $103.15 million while units expanded 1.2%. However, the meat subcategory (+4.0% in dollars) did significantly better than the non-meat subcategory (-5.1%), suggesting some shifts in consumer preferences. Frozen entrees also enjoyed strong sales, with dollars jumping 14.9% to $11.09 million and units, 16.8%. Enchiladas posted the biggest dollar growth (+19.1%), followed by “other” Hispanic entrees (+13.0%). Does your assortment include ample choices in these fast-growing product segments?

MEXICAN MOVES INTO THE LEAD

The frozen Mexican food category’s success is no surprise since Latinos are growing as a percentage of the American population. At the same time, however, non-Latinos are increasingly interested in many aspects of Hispanic culture as it has evolved in the U.S. The evidence is clear as Mexican food has passed Italian as the most popular cuisine among Americans age 18 to 54. Modelo, a Mexican brand, is now the top-selling beer in the U.S., and tequila is the fastest-growing type of distilled spirits.

Unfortunately, some grocers’ frozen sections are failing to keep up with the popularity of Mexican foods. Stores continue to merchandise sets as though they were a niche business instead of one that has achieved mainstream status. Product assortments are frequently limited to inexpensive burritos or taquitos, which fails to acknowledge that Mexican food consumers seek a greater selection and will go elsewhere if it is not provided where they typically shop.

Mexican food has passed Italian as the most popular cuisine among Americans age 18 to 54.

Frozen Mexican foods that use restaurant-quality ingredients are seen by many as the next big area of growth for the category as Latino and non-Latino consumers alike clamor for authentic taste experiences in tortillas, tamales, flautas, tostadas, tacos and other dishes. So call out authentic ingredients in signage or shelf tags!

Best-in-class retailers are expanding frozen shelf space and assortments as they reject old thinking that their customers prefer to either make Mexican meals from scratch themselves or go to a restaurant.

The do-it-yourself food preparation behavior that came to the U.S. with first-generation immigrants has evolved with subsequent generations. Today, many second- and third-generation American Latinos are looking for restaurant-quality solutions in grocery stores that they can use as a full meal or as a component of one. Like Americans from other countries of origin, Latinos are looking for ways to spend more time with their families at the dinner table and less time preparing it. Look for ways to highlight convenience that doesn’t sacrifice quality.

CROSS-MERCHANDISING MAKES A MEAL

The use of appetizers, sides, or entrees as a part of a meal points to a growing trend among consumers who mix and match refrigerated, frozen, shelf-stable and prepared foods to make a complete meal. This very trend plays to the cross-merchandising strength of frozen Mexican foods, particularly for consumers who may be challenged when it comes to pulling together a Mexican meal. The “white people taco night” TikTok trend is a clear example of consumers knowing what they like but unsure how to fill out their menu.

Frozen Mexican foods offer grocers opportunities to use shippers dry racks, saddle bags and coupons to answer the “What else do I need?” question for shoppers. Placing displays of chips, rice, beans, salsa and other items near a display of frozen Mexican food is a simple way to drive incremental rings.

FR Buyer

FR Buyer

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Paul Chapa, Co-Founder & Managing Partner
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