Hispanic produce staples such as tomatoes, avocados, mangos, and peppers are as much mainstream an any fruits and vegetables. Of course, they’re in abundance at Hispanic retail stores, but other items are growing.
Robert Schueller, director of public relations for Melissa’s/World Variety Produce, Inc. BB #:111686 in Los Angeles, says Melissa’s/World Variety Produce was founded on Hispanic ingredients 35 years ago. “The first items we had were Hispanic products: chayote squash, jicama, tomatillos. We used to only market to Hispanic stores,” he says.
“Being based in L.A., on the West Coast, it’s the largest Mexican-American population in the country. We have the right portfolio for these stores here, whether they’re Hispanic retailers or mainstream stores catering to Hispanic consumers.”
Schueller says it’s been amazing to see the growth of mangos. “Mangos are something 20 years ago, I’d never had one,” he shares. “But Hispanic culture really made them popular, more popular than bananas in Hispanic stores. A Hispanic shopper will buy 10 mangos at a time.”
Cactus leaves are also a staple for Hispanic stores. “Jicama is something many Latin families will buy every time they shop,” Schueller notes. “Chayote squash—we can’t sell enough of it. It’s not really a mainstream item but big [with] Hispanic and Asian populations.”
Raquel Espinoza, director of sales and marketing for Produce House LLC, BB #:300387 in Nogales, AZ, supplies staples like tomatoes and hot peppers.
“Cantaloupes do really well in the fall,” she adds. “We’ve been doing it for four years and it keeps expanding. We’d love to see the hard squash category take off; Latinos don’t consume it much. There’s a lack of information on how to use it. We need to do more educating and marketing and give recipes that are user friendly.”
Alex Jackson Berkley, sales manager for Frieda’s Inc. BB #:127169 in Los Angeles, says it’s a good time to offer specialties because consumers want more produce choices than ever before.
“In Southern California, the market is changing, where there’s so much more variety. The second and third generations want more variety. We see dragon fruit, jackfruit, ginger, turmeric—these items used to be more expensive.”
This is a multi-part spotlight feature on the Hispanic produce market adapted from the October 2019 issue of Produce Blueprints.