18 Oct Hispanic Food Consumption Trends: Authenticity, Fusion and the Influence of Kids
The Latino population is still growing and taking huge wallet-share at local restaurants and grocers. Teetering at 20% of the total population and buying power of $1.5 trillion, this powerhouse consumer group is shaping the way we eat, how we eat, and where we eat. The familia is extremely important in all dining experiences whether at home or dining-out and what’s just as important is the authenticity of the food.
The year 2017 and beyond is going to be about the creation and communication of the authenticity of menu items. I once had the bad experience of ordering an “authentic” menu item with “sautéed plantains” only to discover that what they brought to the table was grilled bananas; definitely not what I was expecting. Creativity is a great thing, but it’s not exclusive of authenticity. You can be creative and still use authentic ingredients. But if you are claiming “authentic,” that is what your customers will expect. A great representation of an authentic and widely appealing menu is a fairly new restaurant in the Los Angeles area that focuses on authentic, yet urban-modern Peruvian food called Mo-Chica. For example, Chef Ricardo Zarate has taken the average grilled Portobello and created modern interpretations with the Portobello a lo pobre; a “craveable” and organic Peruvian menu item with grilled Portobello, canario bean tacu tacu, sautéed plantain and fried organic egg.
The crossing over of flavor fusion is also going to be on the rise this year, not only in the U.S. but globally. Here in Florida, we have been fusing cooking styles and flavors for years, and we’re proud to serve, eat and enjoy “Floribbean” cuisine, as coined over two decades ago in South Florida. This is the delicate and delicious merging of flavors and styles of local Florida foods with prominent styles from Cuba, Jamaica and other Caribbean islands. Although not always called out as “Floribbean” on a menu, these types of dishes are served in many restaurants and cafés in the Miami and Ft. Lauderdale area. There are also many cooking styles and flavors merging with those from places halfway around the world. For example, there are many chefs entertaining their guests with a menu of Asian-Latin flavor combinations. It’s been described as spicy, tasty or even “confused,” as described in a National Public Radio piece on the rich history of how these distinctive, yet individual flavors merged (Click here to listen).
In addition to the global flavors merging, they are also expanding beyond restaurants and into our educational institutions. According to the U.S. Census, public school enrollment of Hispanic students increased from 7.7 million students to 11.4 million from 2000 to 2010, and now makes up over 23% of all students in U.S. public schools. This large presence of Latino students is having a powerful influence on menus in schools across the country, and children from every ethnic background are being exposed to Latino cuisine at an early age. As they grow up, these men and women will expect those menu items in their homes, grocery stores and restaurant menus. Considering children influence nearly 80 percent of family purchase decisions, it will also have an immediate impact in food choices at home, an important implication for options in retail outlets and delis across the country.
Karen Lozano McKoy
Hospitality Marketing Consultant