Consumer interest in authentic ethnic foods, snacking and transparency has positioned regional Hispanic snacks for growth on menus, according to a collaborative report from The J.M. Smucker Co. and Technomic, Inc.
“As diners increasingly demand to know the influences behind the foods they’re eating and request more varied Latin foods and flavors, regional Hispanic snacks will further gain ground at restaurants,” the report said.
Nearly half of consumers find regional Hispanic snacks appealing, the companies’ study found, and 48% said they would like to see more of these offerings on restaurants menus. Key demographics showing interest in Hispanic snacks are millennials (63%) and Westerners (51%).
“Many Americans are unfamiliar with specific types of regional Hispanic snacks, while others may be more likely to see certain regional Hispanic items as entrees instead of snacking occasion items,” the report said. “However, 48% of consumers would like to see more regional Hispanic snacks on restaurant menus. Thus, operators need to find ways to make these items more appealing, particularly by targeting interested demographics like millennials and Westerners.”
Read on for five ways to capitalize on the burgeoning interest in regional Hispanic snacks.
Determine the daypart
Time of day contributes greatly to consumer interest in regional Hispanic snacks, the companies said. Only 3 in 10 said they would order regional Hispanic snacks in the morning, but interest gradually increases throughout the day, peaking during the evening. Fifty-seven per cent of consumers would consider eating these snacks during the afternoon, while 60% said the same for the evening. The number dips to 44% when consumers consider late-night snacking.
“While it’s not staggering that millennials are more likely than any other generation to consider ordering these types of snacks during all times of the day, there are some interesting demographic variances between Gen Zers and Gen Xers,” the report said.
Gen Z consumers (those born between 1993 and 1999) are more likely to find regional Hispanic snacks appealing during the morning and late-night hours, while Gen X consumers (born between 1966 and 1976) prefer to eat these types of snacks during the afternoon and evening. Also, Gen Xers (48%) are more likely than Gen Zers (37%) to consider swapping in a regional Hispanic snack as a meal replacement.
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Focus on familiarity
Certain regional Hispanic snacks are more appealing to consumers than others, and knowing which are most likely to succeed “is essential for operators looking to add these types of items to menus,” the report said. Above all else, familiarity seems to be a common thread.
The most appealing regional Hispanic snacks are ones that already have high penetration on restaurant menus, such as tacos.
“Thirty per cent of Top 500 operators overall have tacos on their menus,” the report said. “Therefore, consumers likely find tacos to be a familiar — and thus appealing — format to try a regional Hispanic snack, even if it contains unfamiliar ingredients.”
However, a number of more exotic regional offerings are garnering interest based on their descriptors. Half of consumers said they find Venezuelan arepas and Salvadoran pupusas enticing. Arepas are corn-based dough sandwiches often filled with meat, vegetables, cheese and sauce, and pupusas are thick corn tortillas stuffed with a savory filling.
“Because both arepas and pupusas have ingredients that most American consumers are familiar with, operators should consider menuing these items with more detailed descriptions so they don’t seem so foreign to diners,” the report said.
Beverages may serve as a gateway to Hispanic flavors. Consumers are more likely to try something they have never heard of if it’s a beverage because it is less expensive and less of a risk than food.
“Operators who want to test adding regional Hispanic snacks to their menus may want to start with a beverage,” the report said. “They can promote a fruity agua fresca, for example, as a perfect between-meal snack to cool down with during summer months. And it’s simple to create in-house — just combine any fruit with water, or even jam to amp up the flavor.”
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Sell the snackability
Consumers are more likely to try less familiar offerings if they are marketed as a snack rather than a full meal. Fifty-five per cent of consumers, including 63% of Gen Zers and millennials, are more likely to try new or unique flavors in a snack than as an entree.
“Because the flavors and ingredients in many regional Hispanic dishes are unfamiliar to many consumers, operators should promote these items as snacks instead of full meals,” the report said.
Restaurant operators may also “snackify” a Hispanic entree to make it more appealing, the companies said. Mini tacos, empanadas or tortas offer less food but more allure.
Portable snacks are even more appealing to consumers, with 62% of consumers saying they like to eat snacks on the go, including 73% of millennials, 72% of Gen Zers and 70% of Gen Xers.
“Street foods are hot right now, and many are easily translatable as on-the-go snacks,” the report said. “Operators should promote items like churros and elotes as highly portable snacks.”
Tout the transparency
Focusing on the regional aspect of Hispanic snacks is key to drawing consumers concerned with transparency. Calling out a snack as a Salvadoran pupusa instead of merely a pupusa or Venezuelan arepas instead of just arepas will help consumers understand the influences behind the food they are eating.
“Consumers now more than ever want to know exactly where their food is coming from,” the report said. “In addition, describing and/or photographing the items on the menu are keys to transparency.”