CHICAGO, IL — May 1, 2005 — A new Food Marketing Institute (FMI) report released here today provides retailers a blueprint on how to serve the fastest-growing consumer segment in the U.S. — Hispanic families, which had purchasing power of $686 billion in 2004 and is expected to reach $1 trillion by 2010. The report, El Mercado 2004: A Perspective on U.S. Hispanic Shopping Behavior shows that U.S. Hispanics are by no means a homogeneous market, but that they share many common demands and needs.

Since 2001, the Hispanic population in the U.S. has grown at four times the rate of the general population, with 40 million people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. By 2020 their population is projected to be 60 million, accounting for 20 percent of the U.S. population.

Segmentation of the U.S. Hispanic Shopper

The report explains that U.S. Hispanics’ view of the supermarket may have much to do with their level of acculturation — the adaptation to the new cultural patterns of a dominant culture. Elements of acculturation include country of birth, length of residence, geography and language.

In addition to differences by acculturated levels, the report defines four distinct Hispanic customer segments:

  • Loyalists prefer a bilingual shopping experience, are driven by brands and stick to their shopping lists. Coupons or bargains do not influence them.

  • Budgeters are known for their detailed meal planning and maintain the lowest spending amount by setting budgets, purchasing groceries in bulk and sticking to their shopping lists.

  • Impulsives tend to avoid planning their meals and enjoy comparison shopping. They enjoy sales and coupons.

  • Inquirers, as the most acculturated segment, assume a patient, calculated approach in their shopping. They comparison shop, read advertising and look for bargains whenever possible.

The study suggests that grocery retailers pay close attention to the unique needs of each segment and refrain from “one-size-fits-all” customer marketing.

Purchasing Behaviors Vary by Level of Acculturation

U.S. Hispanic shoppers make an average of 26 grocery trips per month — three times greater than the general U.S. shopper. Like other American consumers, U.S. Hispanics frequent supermarkets most often for basic grocery purchases. However, they are much more likely to visit panaderias (independent bakeries), carnicerias (butcher shops) and bodegas (produce markets) than other shoppers. More than half of Hispanic shoppers regularly visit these types of stores. They also frequent other formats, particularly discount superstores (68 percent shop here at least once per month) and drugstores (62 percent), for cleaning products, paper goods, personal care items and other necessities.

With larger households and lower incomes, Hispanic shoppers budget more often than other market segments. The majority (62 percent) plan their trip by preparing a shopping list and by looking at weekly circulars and advertisements for specials and comparing prices at different stores. Despite the practice of economizing behaviors, Hispanic households tend to spend more on groceries each week than other shoppers — $133 vs. $92.50 per week.

Hispanic shoppers usually do not shop alone and, in fact, view grocery trips as a family affair. Weekends are clearly preferred for shopping, with 58 percent shopping on either Saturday or Sunday.

Acculturated Hispanic shoppers incorporate more “American” values into their shopping behavior and tend to shop at channels that offer convenience and efficiency. Less acculturated Hispanic shoppers prefer outlets where Hispanic foods and products are more accessible to them. They shop at ethnic stores five times more than acculturated Hispanics.

Hispanics with higher income levels ($50,000 or more per year) are more likely to shop at warehouse club stores compared with those with lower income (less than $25,000 per year).

Conversely, those with lower income tend to shop more often at bodegas and carnicerías, 60
percent versus 41 percent, respectively.

Similarly, acculturation has an impact on the type of store shopped. Significantly more acculturated Hispanics visit drug stores, limited assortment stores and convenience stores compared with less acculturated Hispanics. In contrast, less acculturated Hispanics prefer to shop more frequently at bodegas, carnicerías and panaderías.

View of the Supermarket

The study finds that Hispanic shoppers are especially interested in supermarkets that respond to their needs by offering:

  • A variety of fresh produce, meats and breads
  • Hispanic products
  • Bilingual store signs and packages
  • Bilingual employees that are knowledgeable about Hispanic products
  • Advertisements in Hispanic and Spanish-language media

Another important factor when catering to Hispanic grocery shoppers is community involvement. Over 90 percent of unacculturated Hispanics and almost three quarters acculturated consider this important.

Focusing largely on the above concepts, the report concludes with specific recommendations and strategies to retailers seeking to capture the Hispanic dollar.

Data Tabulation

Results of the study are based on 1,650 telephone interviews with Hispanic grocery shoppers in the top 10 Hispanic markets in the United States. Respondents were Hispanics who identified themselves as the primary grocery shopping decision makers of their households. Shoppers were at least 18 years of age and had not participated in a similar research study in the past six months.

Interviews were administered in either English or Spanish, depending on respondent preferences. Results for the total sample of U.S. markets were weighted according to population in order to be representative of the total U.S. Hispanic population.

To purchase El Mercado 2004: A Perspective on U.S. Hispanic Shopping Behavior, visit the FMI Store at