Multi-dimensional Mealtimes: More than Just Comida
In the Latino culture, where traditional flavors and authentic ingredients are cherished, what's for dinner can actually be less important than why the meal is served. Family-centric, Latinos gather around the table to nourish their bodies as well as their connections to one another and their common heritage.
The dynamic role of food in Latino culture recently sparked fresh research from The Hartman Group and MSLGROUP. The new report, called The Multicultural Latino Consumer, delves into how Latinos fundamentally value mealtime on multidimensional levels and the complex influence this has on their food purchase decisions.
Considering that in the U.S. a Hispanic is turning 18 years old every 30 seconds, the pool of gatekeepers in the Latino community is growing exponentially daily. It's important for marketers looking to get a piece of the Latino community's $1.3 trillion spending power to recognize, respect, and embrace the underlying motivational factors behind how and why we fill our shopping carts.
Sure, there is a practical need to serve the family three squares a day. But in Latino culture, mealtime is a respected, central enabler of together-time. Emotion is richly entwined with the everyday routine, and that elevates food choices to a higher, sometimes underestimated level.
Latinos set their tables to prepare for an appetizing social experience around each meal. We found that, compared with non-Latinos, we are 10 times more likely to emphasize the value of eating together (32 percent versus 22 percent), and that feeling emotionally charges our menu planning. The study revealed, for example, that Latinos will:
- Choose fresh foods over packaged food (82 percent)
- Buy more local products today than a year ago (51 percent)
- Eat meals influenced by their country of origin (63 percent)
To market food on just the practical merits (such as nutritional benefits) fails to recognize its greater role as a social conduit. The practical and emotional roles of food are linked together almost unconsciously. It is so much a part of our culture that we may not even be aware of the convergence but will reject a message if it tries to isolate function from emotion or elevate function over emotion.
For example, selling vitamins needs to integrate messaging about the health benefits for the individual in the context of the benefit for the family. Taking action towards a healthier lifestyle is more desirable, more of a priority, when it strikes the emotional chord that living longer means more time with family.
So, while we like healthy foods because we value nutrition and good health, we pick fresh ingredients first and foremost because we think they deliver the best taste and the best family experience. We go to corner tiendas instead of general supermarkets not only because they are convenient and friendly but because they stock our favorite spices that we believe are essential to properly celebrating memories and flavors associated with a recipe that has been passed from generation to generation. We want those connections and see food as a delicious, successful means to uphold our values. Food makes a Latino house feel like a home.
Vickie Allande-Fite leads the Multicultural Specialty of MSLGROUP, a leading PR, events, and engagement agency. MSLGROUP and The Hartman Group partner on major studies around food, nutrition, and select consumer audiences. Together, they provide a potent mixture of deep data, insights, and strategic opportunities for brands.