Some 69 percent say that the more than 50 million Latinos in the U.S. have many different cultures rather than a common culture. Respondents do express a strong, shared connection to the Spanish language. Some 82 percent say they speak Spanish, and nearly all (95 percent) say it is important for future generations to continue to do so.
Every 30 seconds a young Hispanic turns 18. It is the fastest growing and most influential segment of the U.S. population, with a collective buying power reaching $1 trillion, according to The Hartman Group (www.hartman-group.com), Bellevue, Wash.
Hartman is working on a deep-dive exploration of the lifestyle and shopping behaviors of U.S. Hispanic consumers, both unacculturated (recent arrivals to the U.S., with Spanish as their dominant language) and acculturated (cultural modification or adaption due to prolonged contact, they tend to be bilingual). And now we have a generation of U.S.-born Latinos, who are not fluent in Spanish even though they are exposed to the language their parents speak at home.
One apparent truism is that preparing traditional family meals is of high value to Latinos, but the need for convenient foods is increasing, according to Univision Communications Inc. Cooking traditional foods goes beyond providing healthy, nutritious meals; it represents the importance of family time and offers a way to keep the Hispanic culture alive.
Goya Foods: Frijoles or habichuelas?
Celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, Goya Foods Inc. (www.goya.com), Secaucus, N.J., is America's largest Hispanic-owned food company. It markets more than 1,600 Hispanic and Caribbean grocery items, including canned and dried beans, canned meats, beverages, cooking oils, olives, rice, seasonings and sauces, plantain and yucca chips, frozen treats and entrees.
It sells many different types of rice and nearly 40 types of beans and peas under the Goya and Canilla brands. It also sells beverages such as tropical fruit nectars, juices, tropical sodas, and coffee, and its operations span the globe.
Founded in 1936 by Don Prudencio Unanue and his wife Carolina, both from Spain, the Goya story is as much about family as it is about achieving the American dream. Believing the Unanue name would be too difficult for Americans to pronounce, he purchased the easier to pronounce Goya name for $1. The company is the leading authority on authentic Hispanic food and products from the Caribbean, Mexico, Spain, Central and South America.
Uniquely, every retailer pays the same price for each Goya product whether a small independently owned store or a supermarket chain.
Goya's commitment to the Latino community is realized through its online presence, www.goya.com, which personalizes the consumer experience by providing great-tasting, authentic Latino recipes for the home cook as well as educating Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike to the diversity of Latin American cuisine. Visitors to Goya online are encouraged to become part of La Gran Familia Goya.
"It has been a memorable and successful year for Goya," says President Bob Unanue. "We are so proud and humbled by the overwhelming support and recognition of our 75th anniversary. It's an incredible feeling and gives us the confidence and ability to further invest in Goya and the community."
Fernando Desa, a native of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico, is Goya's executive chef and product manager. Capturing the traditional tastes and methods that have been handed down through generations, he works to retain the flavors that epitomize Latin American cuisine while incorporating new techniques that can be easily duplicated by the home chef.
"Hispanics like a lot of flavor in their food, and then the presentation on the plate. And then the freshness," said Desa, part of a panel on Hispanic cuisine at the Research Chefs Assn. annual meeting this year.
On the culinary horizon, "I think Peruvian is the next thing," Desa said. "It has already started. It's a fusion of Asian cuisine with a little Spanish cuisine. There are a wide variety of chiles. There is also a lot of freshness with the fish. Besides that, there are the mango, the passion fruit, very tropical and refreshing. When you mix that with the chilies, you have an excellent combination.
Ruiz: Authentic but frozen Mexican
A perfect story of acclimation, Ruiz Foods Products Inc., Dinuba, Calif., has been developing Mexican food products since the 1960s.
"When my dad [Fred] and grandfather [Louis] started Ruiz Foods in 1964, they started with bean and cheese enchiladas and chile rellenos," says Chairman Kim Ruiz Beck. "They both lived in Tulare, Calif., a small agricultural and dairy community with a population around 14,000. They sold their frozen Mexican food, made from my grandmother Rosie's recipes, to small ‘mom and pop' stores in the area.
"The Ruiz Foods production facility was a portion of a small warehouse where they used such ‘sophisticated' equipment as an electric mixer from home, a homemade stove, a restaurant refrigerator and small freezer. They made approximately 40 lbs. of food a day.
"They remained a two-man operation for approximately three years. Then they moved to a USDA-approved facility so they could manufacture meat products, and it all began to change," she reflects. Ruiz Foods is now a $525 million sales company.