Hispanic Gen Y and Gen Z Food Culture Collides With Macro Trends

Macro Food Trends Are Closely Tied to Hispanic Food Culture

Organic, locally sourced, natural, sustainable, Non-GMO, fresh, and socially responsible are all macro food trends that resonate loudly with consumers under 35, and Hispanics are no exception.

In fact, according to The Hispanic Millennial Project study by Sensis Agency and Think Now Research, over half of Hispanic Millennials believe it is “very important/somewhat important” that the food and beverages meet macro trend criteria. Hispanics are willing to pay up to $4.89 or 22% more for a more natural product that would otherwise cost $3.00, according to the same study.

Younger Hispanics’ tendency to place importance on natural and fresh foods is not surprising given how closely tied these food characteristics are to their food culture of heritage. We could say that “fresh and natural” and otherwise “clean” foods are really not a trend among Hispanics at all, but rather a culturally-driven orientation.

Hispanics are Impacting Food Choices of Younger Consumers at Large

In general, as younger generations’ orientation to being green and socially responsible grows, it will continue to fuel a greater orientation to fresh and natural foods. And, NPD Group expects that the tastes and choices of U.S. Hispanics, which make up a large percentage of Millennials and Gen Z, will continue to grow in importance over the next five years significantly impacting what consumers at large buy and eat.

Non-Hispanics’ affinity to Hispanic foods is driven by a perception that Hispanic foods are more healthful because the cuisine emphasizes legumes, fruits, vegetables, herbs and ancient grains.  The NPD Group confirms that as younger Hispanics continue to observe food traditions of their culture, they are influencing all Millennial and Gen Z’s eating patterns, reinforcing interest in buying fresh and natural foods and cooking from scratch.

Fresh and Scratch Cooking on the Rise

Between 2003 and 2013 fresh foods saw a sales increase of 20%. NPD predicts that between 2013 and 2018, we’ll see an increase in fresh food sales of 11% for Gen Z and 7.5% for Millennials, far outpacing their respective shares of the population change (2% and 2%, respectively).

Interestingly, Gen Z is shaping up to have an even greater orientation to fresh food and cooking from scratch. Simmons National Consumer Teen Study indicates that 56% of Hispanic Gen Z goes grocery shopping; 46% say they typically grocery shop with their parents; and they focus on the perimeter of the store, meaning they are influenced by parents’ choices – many of whom are Millennials.

NPD forecasts that between 2013 and 2018, we’ll see an increase of 6% for Gen Z and 5% for Millennials consuming meals prepared from scratch and an increase of 11% for Gen Z and 8% for Millennials consuming meals using fresh products. They also report that top foods purchased/consumed by Gen Z include fresh chicken, eggs/omelets, potatoes, fresh bananas, fresh apples, fresh carrots, and bacon.

By all accounts, the growth trend for fresh and scratch cooking is on a steady course with Hispanic Millennials and Gen Z aligning closely with their non-Hispanic cohorts on this front.

Younger Hispanics’ Food Choices Remain Strongly Rooted in Culture of Heritage

One might think that as most Millennials and Gen Z Hispanics were raised or where born in the U.S., their Hispanic food traditions would have weakened as they adopt more mainstream food habits and that they would be less influenced by their culture when they shop and cook.  However, this is far from the truth irrespective of place of birth. Hispanic culture is not fading among younger generations. According to Univision, 96% of Hispanic Millennials say they will never stop doing things that are part of their heritage.

As it turns out, 73% of U.S.-born and 71% of foreign-born Hispanic Millennials say heritage and cultural background drive the food and beverage brands they buy and 80% of Hispanic Millennials with incomes higher than $40K agree according to The Hispanic Millennial Project report. Additionally, 56% of U.S born Millennials agree with the statement, “I use/buy ethnic brands of food and beverages” according to the Hispanic Millennial Project report.

When asked how often Hispanic Millenials cook from scratch in a given week, 78% of U.S.-born and 86% of foreign-born Millennials said they cook at home once a week or more, often according to The Hispanic Millennial Project report.

Most important of all, the NPD report It’s Mealtime with Hispanics indicates that Hispanic Millennials are just as likely as total Hispanics to say they always or often follow tradition when planning and serving meals at home.

The NPD report shows heavy use of stove top versus microwave and oven use among Hispanic Millennials compared to Non-Hispanic Millennials as further evidence of scratch cooking dominance.

Hispanics’ Top Food Choices

Looking at the top 15 meals and meal components consumed at home among Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Millennials, it is clear to see how in home food orientations differ.

Regardless of language dominance, Hispanic Millennials are more likely than non-Hispanic Millennials to choose fruit, bread, salads, rice, Hispanic dishes, poultry, eggs, soup, homemade dishes and tortillas as top meals and meal components.

Non-Hispanic Millennials are more likely than Hispanic Millennials to choose vegetables and legumes, RTE cereal, sandwiches, salty snacks and potatoes for their in home meals.

The Bottom Line

While the majority of Millennials and Gen Z Hispanics are mostly U.S. born and speak English, their food traditions remain strongly rooted. Food manufacturers wanting to attract them must develop a full understanding of what this means. This includes their natural inclination for fresh and scratch cooking and for the flavor profiles of heritage to which they remain connected. That said, their adventurous side should be considered as they are still a product of their generations.

Given Hispanics’ steadfast adherence to their food of culture, it is not surprising that sales of Hispanic foods (excluding frozen) are expected to increase by 7% over the next five years among Hispanic Millennials, according to The NPD Group.

This said, non-Hispanic Millennials’ appetite for Hispanic foods continues to grow and sales of Hispanic foods and beverages are expected to reach $10.7 billion in 2017, up 31% from the present market level.

Manufacturers who want to leverage these generations’ love for Hispanic food, including among non-Hispanics, would do well to lead with Hispanic flavors and textures as innovation drivers. This is where the greatest upside growth opportunity exists.

Hispanic Millennials like variety and like to explore new flavors and will surely view new flavors and textures as different and appealing.

Terry Soto is a Hispanic market strategist and CEO of About Marketing Solutions Inc. For  25 years, Terry has consulted for best in class Fortune 1000 companies in the U.S. and Internationally. Clients have included ALDI Supermarkets, August Storck KG, Verizon Wireless, H&R Block, Walgreens, CVS Pharmacy, Disney Theme Parks, Autozone, Citibank, El Pollo Loco restaurants.

Terry partners with top executives to accelerate Hispanic market revenue growth and drive overall business performance. Known for being bold, straight-forward and persuasive, Terry is sought out by business leaders who need her expertise to accelerate results. Terry is constantly interviewed and quoted by business and trade media and is frequently engaged to speak to executive groups across the country. Terry can be reached at terrysoto@aboutmarketingsolutions.com or 818-842-9688.


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