In the metropolitan area of Washington DC, which includes Maryland and Virginia, live large groups of Latinos mainly from countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and México. Each of them has a marked influence on the food culture of the counties where they live. Their influence in the area is present with not only restaurants, food trucks, chefs on television programs, but also increasingly, with grocery stores that have grown into huge supermarkets. All these facts are expanding the market and the culinary diversity of both Latinos and the American population that lives in this region.
What does food mean for Latinos? Food is the center of the family, the focus of the culture. It is the mothers’ way of saying, “I love you and I have prepared this with my hands to see you grow!” Food is tied to family traditions, such as commonly used phrases in many Latino cultures like, “love enters through the kitchen.”
Family recipes often pass from generation to generation. Food allows loved ones to show their affection for each other by cooking for a loved one when they are sick or cooking a special meal for someone they care about to spoil them. Being able to consume traditional meals and maintain customs is much more than being able to buy products in the US, they guarantee the ability to pass on culture from one generation to the next.
Having access to products from our countries in the US is so important because it connects us emotionally with our countries and origins. Having access to traditional foods in a new country is like having a piece of your country wherever you live. Nostalgic products, especially, are highly demanded because they remind you of happy moments when you lived with your family. Without this nostalgia and memories, we would feel isolated in our new homes, both in our emotions and palate.
People from all over the world live in the DC metro area, with the area containing four of the ten most diverse cities in America, according to a 2018 WalletHub Survey. Demand for these foods exists even outside of the Latino community. For example, millennials are open to experiencing international cuisine, you could say they want to know the world culture through their stomachs. However, they are also smart and highly selective consumers.
For companies that sell food products, the metropolitan area is a highly attractive market. Those in the industry need to make more efforts to establish attractive products and market those products not only to the Latino community, but also to the DC metro area as a whole.
If you are in the food industry, you are losing money if you are not selling to the Latino market. According to DATA USA, the highest percentage of those living in DC who are not native-born Americans are from El Salvador.
The Latino market is loyal to brands and is a growing demographic in the US. To interact with the Latino market, you must understand its diversity, their culture and prepare a specific marketing strategy dependent on specific objectives, which are to be based on geographic areas, advertising, packaging of products and points of sale.