Consumers are gaining a much greater interest in purchasing specialty snack foods, particularly sweet and savory bakery items that offer unique flavor profiles. This puts Hispanic bakeries right in the middle of a prime opportunity to promote unique snack items that offer delicious flavors and are convenient to eat.

Overall, specialty food shoppers say they are now spending one in four of their food dollars on specialty food, up from one in five in 2013, according to the Specialty Food Association. Their top picks? Chocolate and cheese are purchased most.

At Melao Bakery in central Florida, this 6-year-old bakery with locations in Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida, features pastries are in a variety of flavors including cheese, guava, apple, cherry, strawberry and pineapple. One of the most popular sweet snacks at Melao Bakery is called tembleque, which consists of a small portion of coconut custard topped with cinnamon and served in a small round tin. It is often sold as a snack item with bread. Quesitos, or cheese sticks, are top sellers at Melao Bakery and Venezia Patisserie, another Hispanic bakery in Kissimmee.

Latin American cuisines are gaining widespread popularity in the United States, as consumers have a big appetite for unique flavor combinations. Venezia Patisserie specializes in pastries from Venezuela, while Melao Bakery concentrates on breads and pastries that are authentic to Puerto Rico, where the bakery’s owners Eduardo Colón and Denisse Torres previously lived and operated a bakery. 

Unique pastries from Latin America offer great potential to appeal to America’s growing appetite for Latin flavors.

Here are some examples:

In the United States people celebrate birthday parties with cake, but in Argentina, it's always the chocotorta, or "chocolate cake." Its popularity is due to its simplicity: A tub of dulce de leche, a tub of queso crema, wafer-like chocolate cookies, and brewed coffee.

Similar to a truffle, the ultra-sweet brigadeiro from Brazil is made from sweetened condensed milk heated with cocoa powder to form a paste, then mixed with cold butter and rolled into small balls, which are then rolled in toppings like brown sugar, sprinkles, coconut shavings, or almonds. They're often enjoyed at birthday parties.

Uruguayan food might not be known internationally, but the chajá cake is gaining wide notoriety in culinary circles in the United States. Named after a native Uruguayan bird, chajá starts from a sponge cake base and peach syrup that's spiked with a few tablespoons of rum. Add on layers of meringue, fresh peaches, whipped cream, and dulce de leche, then smother the whole cake with mounds of whipped cream and top it off with more sweet crisp meringue and peaches.

Generally eaten to celebrate Independence Day, pastelitos are a point of Argentine patriotic pride. Flaky puff pastry is filled with sweet quince or sweet potato paste and formed into a flower or pinwheel shape, then deep fried in lard or sunflower oil until golden brown. It's finished off with sugary glaze, and topped with festive sprinkles.

Peru's picarones, which date back to Peru's colonial days, are potato-based desserts. In this case, camote, a type of sweet potato, is mixed with macre, a type of squash, to form a silky purée. It's combined with flour, sugar, yeast, and anise, formed into a round donut shape and deep fried.

Chilenitos are a popular sweet treat originating from Chile. Manjar is spread and sandwiched between two flat cracker-like biscuits before it is covered in sweet and fluffy meringue for a bite that's creamy, sugary, and crunchy all at once.

What Hispanics Buy

Mintel states in the new report, Today’s Specialty Food Consumer 2014, that the 145 million people who say they’ve bought specialty foods this year truly represent an 8% advance over 2013 – even though this new 59% portion of U.S. consumers seems at first glance to be lower than last year’s 74%.

The most likely buyers of specialty foods continue to be Millennials (70% of people between 18 and 34 years old), affluent (70% of households earnings $75,000 or more per year) and Hispanic (71%).

So a potential source of new customers is the country’s fast-growing Hispanic population. The Census Bureau found that people of Hispanic or Latino origin made up 16.9% of the US population in 2012, up from 12% in 2000. They represent both the largest minority group and immigrant group.

But don’t use a one-size-fits-all approach in marketing and promoting your bakery products to Hispanics. Someone who, for instance, recently immigrated from Mexico and lives in Texas may respond to specific marketing messages differently than someone of Chilean origin who was born in the US and grew up in Chicago. It is important to identify your target customers and tailor your marketing campaigns to speak directly to them.

You may also want to focus your marketing on geographic regions where your target customers tend to live and work, to get more out of the dollars you invest. According to the Pew report, for instance, nearly half of people of Cuban origin in the US live in the Miami-Dade County area.