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Hispanic opportunities for food and supplement makers

12-Jul-2004

The health of America's largest minority population is making the headlines again as Univision Communications, the Spanish-language media company, teams up with Longs Drug Stores to promote the wellness of the Hispanic population. Philippa Nuttall looks at the opportunities for functional food and dietary supplement manufacturers wanting to target this population.

The Univision/Longs Drug Stores campaign will provide general health information to Hispanic consumers via television, radio and the web, with no emphasis on specialist foods.

"The focus of our campaign is the maintenance and adoption of healthy lifestyle behaviors which include the regular consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables," spokesperson Amy Cohen told NutraIngredientsusa. "We are not promoting any "health foods" that are currently being marketed to various audiences nor are we promoting the use of dietary supplements."

This may be the case for this campaign, but those in the nutraceutical industry are becoming more aware of the Hispanic population as a potentially rich market for their products.

First, there is the simple fact that the number of Hispanics in the US has grown significantly in recent years and that this growth is set to continue.

According to a recent report entitled "Hispanics and Food" by Mintel, the US Hispanic population grew by 67.5 percent between 1990 and 2002, compared to 8.1 percent for the non-Hispanic population, with the population now standing at 38.8 million. "If the current rate were to continue, Hispanics would make up nearly one out of five US residents by 2012, said the survey.

These figures are perhaps most interesting when looked at in conjunction with a survey by the Natural Marketing Institute, which found that Hispanics believe themselves to be much more deficient in nutritional ingredients than other US populations.

For example, around a fifth of them thought they were lacking in calcium, compared to just over a third of other individuals, and almost double the number of them thought they were lacking in protein compared to the rest of the US population.

Moreover, the Hispanic population is known to receive less healthcare than other sectors of the population, and a recent study found nearly a third of Latino children are overweight - most of these have at least one risk factor for type 2 diabetes or heart disease.

Some functional food makers have started to tap into this market. For example, Kefir maker Lifeway Foods has launched the La Fruta drinkable yogurt product line, specifically designed to appeal to Hispanic consumers, and plans to introduce other products under the brand.

"We created La Fruta to tap into the fastest-growing demographic market in the United States, and it has proved to be an exceptionally strong addition to our product portfolio," said Julie Smolyansky, president of Lifeway Foods.

Other examples of US producers tapping into the Hispanic market include PepsiCo-owned SoBe with Fuerte, a mango and passionfruit beverage with herbal extracts under its Powerline range. Mott's has also launched an energy drink for the Hispanic consumer. Clamato Energia is a non-carbonated tomato-based drink containing ginseng, taurine, guarana, and B vitamins.

What all these companies and Univision/Longs Drug Stores seem to have understood is, as Mintel noted, that: "reaching the Hispanic population requires some use of the Spanish language - this signals the company is interested in the Hispanic market. This can be especially important in marketing unfamiliar foods to Hispanics who are most comfortable with information presented in Spanish."

With this advice in mind, it will be interesting to see which functional food and supplement manufacturers will be next on the scene with a Hispanic targeted product.

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