With a rise in the obesity rate seen in the Latino community in recent years it is imperative that two things continue to evolve. The first is how manufacturers and marketers effectively communicate with the Latino community; and the second is that we make healthier food choices. Do they really understand the culture and market to Latinos as distinct from other large demographic consumers? Recent studies seem to indicate that the marketing world does recognize that Latinos are savvy consumers and a driving force in the marketplace.
While acculturation plays a significant role in the diet of Latinos in this country, food purchases are greatly influenced by culture, tradition, and emotional values. A study conducted by the Hartman Group entitled The Multi-Cultural Latino Consumer indicates that family experience is primarily what influences Latino food purchases and choices. According to the data, while the Latino population in the U.S. is very diverse, there are common factors when it comes to food. Generally, Latinos prefer fresh, locally grown whole foods for their traditional meals and 82% of Latinos readily seek out fresh foods. The embracing of packaged foods comes with acculturation. With obesity being the foundation to numerous other health issues such as diabetes and high blood pressure, eating fresh foods and ingredients is an excellent way for Latinos to stay healthy.
There are however three areas where food culture differences can be seen between Latinos and non-Latinos, fresh foods, eating occasions and social eating. Americans value dinner as the most important meal of the day, whereas Latinos highly value the midday meal. Latinos are also more likely to eat socially with family or friends and less likely to be eating alone. In many Latino cultures, a large family gathering for a meal is commonplace, as it is seen as a time of bonding. Even with work constraints where the Latino may not have easy access to a cafeteria for instance, they will usually attempt to eat socially whenever possible.
The U.S. has an overabundance of retail options, and Latinos participate in all of them. Latinos are generally comfortable with American retailers and their products but they also maintain a relationship of sorts with their local bodega to shop for Latino items not found in some mainstream stores. While today many conventional American food stores have the “Hispanic” aisle, it is not nor will it ever replace the local bodega and all it has to offer.
Latinos are very aware of their health in that they are concerned about issues such as weight control, stress, and cardiovascular issues just to name of few. With manufacturers, marketer and social media reaching out to this community and making them aware of the role that healthy eating plays in preventing (some) health issues; there is an overall shift albeit slow, taking place where Latinos are making better food choices and eliminating sugary drinks and unhealthy foods which would otherwise lead to weight gain and numerous other health issues.
By Being Latino Contributor, MariaRodriguez-Aquilino.