Texas’ leading supermarket chain, H-E-B, has built throughout its 118 years of existence a solid reputation for customer service, commitment to its associates, and quality of its products. The retailer pays special attention to offering unique and innovative food products and promoting the better-for-you grocery category.
During a business roundtable sponsored by ProColombia in Houston, Abasto magazine saw one of H-E-B’s representatives in action, holding dozens of meetings with Colombian merchants to identify new food products for the supermarket chain.
David Adauto, H-E-B’s sourcing manager, spoke to Abasto about the continuous search for new products to meet consumer demand and the demanding selection process for an item to reach the supermarket chain’s shelves.
Adauto emphasized that “for us, it is crucial to work with our neighbors. And to work with them, you have to know them. It is a good strategy to work more closely with Mexico, Central America, South America, and Canada because the pandemic taught us that strategically there is a logistical challenge in the world when something goes wrong. It is difficult and expensive to get containers.
About the meetings he held with Colombian entrepreneurs, Adauto expressed his admiration for their enthusiasm. “You see the pride they feel for the product they are trying to sell you, that they are trying to promote.”
In addition, from his point of view as a buyer, it was essential to see that the merchants care about understanding not only what the U.S. consumer wants but what they need in Texas.
“It’s imperative for them and for us to start those lines of communication to see what we can do to be partners because there’s always going to be a formulation change. We’re never going to be happy with someone’s original product because we like exclusivity,” Adauto said.
H-E-B’s sourcing manager explained that opening the door to new products begins with that initial conversation that can lead to a partnership. “When we talk to our suppliers or potential suppliers, we start a relationship on which we want to build that foundation. It’s a partnership, a two-way street; it’s not a one-way street because it doesn’t work just for me.”
The better-for-health category is growing. H-E-B has a Healthy Living area, and very soon, they will have a new section called Higher Harvest, dedicated to better-for-you items and products.
“We know that healthy living is not a fad but a lifestyle change that people have embraced. People are looking at what they eat and the calories they take in. We now have space for those products in a large section of our stores,” Adauto said.
As for the future of Hispanic foods in the U.S. market, Adauto believes that consumers are more willing to experiment and try different things. “Just like in the case of health with a better-for-you lifestyle, people want to try different foods that can be better for health and taste great.”
And it will be the younger generations that will encourage more of their consumption, according to Adauto. “They’re more open to experimenting with foods from other countries, and they tend to try different things, they want something healthy but something convenient. They don’t want to take the time to cook it, prepare it, and do all that. So that’s where H-E-B comes in by offering their food.”