Hispanic shoppers are buying.

Today, one in six Americans is Hispanic and, by 2050, one in three will be, according to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau. Here are some things you may not know. A person of any race may identify him- or herself as Hispanic; White, Black, Asian, American Indian, Pacific Islander or those of multiracial background. There are many Hispanic subcultures; think Cuban, Puerto Rican and Guatemalan, to name a few. There are 40 countries “south of the border,” not just Mexico. Many Hispanics do not carry health insurance, so rely on “food-as-medicine” for health. Hispanics typically are very familiar with herbs and herbal medicines, which are a traditional part of Hispanic culture. Hispanic households spend more on groceries than non-Hispanic households, and disproportionately more on fresh fruits and vegetables. Hispanic buying power is increasing faster than any other population group and Hispanics are populating more states than ever before. About four in 10 hold white-collar jobs and, as of October 2010, Hispanic college enrollment jumped 24 percent, and is approaching 10 percent of all college attendees.

How can you attract Hispanic shoppers? For insight, I spoke with Sue Hamby, Ph.D., owner of Discover Natural Foods, in Temple, TX, a 3,000-square-foot store focusing on vitamins, supplements and natural foods. Dr. Hamby realized that her trade area had become so diverse; she needed a culturally relevant marketing plan, and began to research the Hispanic market. Dr. Hamby found Hispanics spend up to 30 hours per week listening to the radio, and three in four are likely to read direct-mail offers. Dr. Hamby hired a Spanish-speaking employee, had her business cards reprinted with English on one side, Spanish on the other, and is developing a dual-language private label supplement line. Spanish-language nutrition books dot the shelves, and shoppers can pick up Natural Insights for Well Being®, a customized nutrition newsletter, also in Spanish.

Dr. Hamby went to the local Catholic Church and found she could sponsor its Hispanic health fair, set up a booth, and give away samples and literature. The store is also a member of LULAC—the League of United Latin American Citizens—which since 1929 has helped promote opportunities for Hispanic Americans seeking freedom and an honest way of life. Dr. Hamby’s Spanish-speaking employee attends the monthly meetings, which help the store become aware of events and, more importantly, become better integrated into the Hispanic community. “It’s not just about promoting Cinco de Mayo [the “5th of May” celebration of the defeat of the French army by the Mexican army at Puebla, Mexico in 1862] once a year,” Dr. Hamby says. “It’s about expressing concern, learning about Hispanic culture and showing interest personally on an individual basis. After all, our Hispanic friends have the same high blood pressure, heart disease and other chronic conditions as we do, and because of their culture and history, are usually very interested in natural herbs and medicines.” Hamby’s efforts have paid off in a steady stream of new customers, and higher sales. “We’ve made so many new friends who really appreciate our more natural approach to health,” Dr. Hamby says, adding with a smile, “We’ve gotten really good at making sure our store feels warm and welcoming to everyone who comes through our door.” WF

Jay Jacobowitz is president and founder of Retail Insights®, a professional consulting service for natural products retailers established in 1998, and creator of Natural Insights for Well Being®, a comprehensive marketing service designed especially for independent natural products retailers. With 34 years of wholesale and retail industry experience, Jay has assisted in developing over 900 successful natural products retail stores in the U.S. and abroad. Jay is a popular author, educator, and speaker, and is the merchandising editor of WholeFoods Magazine, for which he writes Merchandising Insights and Tip of the Month. Jay also serves the Natural Products Association in several capacities. He will next be speaking at Natural Products Association Northwest on Thursday afternoon, October 21st, “To Keep and Win Customers Today, Tell YOUR Story” and exhibiting at Booth #315 on Friday and Saturday, October 22nd and 23rd. He can be reached at (800)328-0855 or via e-mail at jay@retailinsights.com.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, October 2011