Latina Moms Balance Taste, Health & Convenience.

By Liz Sanderson / Univision Consumer Insights

Like a masterful tightrope walker, Hispanic mothers are always concerned with balance. As it is, they already straddle two cultures: they are experiencing and adopting American traditions while holding on to their Hispanic values, traditions and heritage.

One of the elements of their culture that they most want to retain — whether they’re immigrants or U.S. born—is their food and recipes. We know that this passion for food is developed at an early age and heavily influenced by their mothers. Because of that, cooking tends to play much more than a functional role in a Latina mother’s life; it reflects who she is as a mom. In a 2010 Yankelovich Banktract report, 81% of Hispanics 16+ agreed that they “put a lot of care and emotion into my cooking” vs. 65% of non Hispanics.

We also know that this passion for food comes with an unwavering commitment to flavor. In focus group research, one mom told us, and many agreed, “I do not have the moral authority to make my kids eat healthy food that doesn’t taste good because I wouldn’t eat it myself.”

Like any other mother in the U.S., Hispanic moms strive for career advancement and work to provide a better financial future for their children. Because of this, Latinas have been left starved for time and more willing to make compromises that buck their Hispanic traditions. Latinas, who tend to cook from scratch more often than non-Hispanics, are increasingly embracing convenience foods like frozen vegetables, canned ingredients, and microwaveable side dishes as they pour themselves into their careers.

A recent syndicated Simmons study of Latinas 18+ shows that they are looking for solutions. Since 2006, the number of Latinas that answered “yes” to the statement “easy to prepare foods are my favorite” grew 16% vs. no growth for non-Hispanic women. Latina women also showed significantly more growth than non-Latinas across convenience products including hot snacks and frozen pizza, vegetables and waffles/pancakes over the same time period.

But the need for convenience does not mean that they are not concerned with nutrition. In fact, research shows that Latinas have become increasingly health-conscious consumers. According to Simmons, 59% say that they “try to eat healthier foods these days,” and the 2010 Yankelovich Hispanic Monitor showed that Healthy Food was within the top drivers of food purchase decisions (65% Hispanic vs. 48% non-Hispanic). The Latina mother also considers herself a food influencer with 31% saying “I’m usually the first to try new health foods” vs. just 16% of non-Hispanic moms.

For Latinas, the food options that balance taste, health and convenience are the ones they will most be drawn to. This means the marketers who best communicate how their products deliver in these areas will be the ones that win their loyalty and wallets.

And the potential winnings are huge. Hispanic women 18-49 currently represent close to 12 million people in this country, and, over the next 10 years, that number will grow by 25%. Latinas also have bigger families, with 32% of Hispanic moms living with three or more children in the household vs. 22% of non-Hispanics.

One brand that successfully capitalized on the opportunity by using insights to reach Hispanic moms was Honey Nut Cheerios. In 2007, Honey Nut Cheerios was the No. 2 cereal brand in general market, but just No. 6 with Hispanics. General Mills redesigned their strategy when research proved Latinas were not familiar with the brand but did care about heart health and taste.

This led to the launch of a holistic Spanish language awareness campaign that played up the lower cholesterol and honey taste messages via TV, print, promotions, sampling, and grass roots events. The brand’s consistent dedication to connect with the Hispanic consumer has paid dividends with increased volume and dollar share. According to Simmons, in 2010, Honey Nut Cheerios was the No. 2 cold cereal brand among Hispanic women 18+.

General Mills CEO Mark Addicks shared that the company’s Hispanic strategy is paying off: “Our growth with those brands that are marketing to Hispanics is at least two times the rate that we’re seeing in the general market…The Hispanic segment is not a tiny segment. It is not a small segment. In many cases it’s the majority segment. They should be part of any realistic plan that is meaning to go out to this country and the market and deliver brand results.”

Latinas are clearly sophisticated consumers who want the best for their children—a life filled with cherished family moments and good meals, a life of better opportunities and a healthy life. The marketers who understand the cultural influences Hispanic mothers face when providing for their families and develop products and marketing campaigns accordingly will be the ones to grow their sales.

Based in New York City, Liz Sanderson is senior director of Brand Solutions at Univision Communications Inc. Her team advises clients in the CPG and retail industries on how to develop and execute their strategies to drive sales with Hispanics.

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