Making the Most of Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month! Like previous years’ columns, I will continue recommending this season to celebrate inside and outside your stores.

No doubt you have your product sales and promotions already in place. It is time to plan shopper activities to draw traffic and maximize those promotions. 

As you plan for Hispanic Heritage Month, what is your strategy to draw your customer base and increase their shopping frequency and average basket size? But also, most importantly, how will you draw a new customer base to your stores? Perhaps potential customers in your marketing area have never been in your stores. I suggest taking a lesson from the food trucks you have no doubt seen in your towns. 

It seems there has been an explosion of food trucks offering foods of all types at festivals, sporting events, and parties of all sizes. Food truck operators can act quickly and cater to consumer fads and trends much faster than restaurants and retailers. 

When I traveled to Mexico with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture in 2016 as part of a memorandum of understanding with SAGARPA (the Mexican Department of Agriculture) to support women in agriculture, we had an opportunity at a street festival in Tuxtla Gutiérrez to taste authentic street corn (Elotes) from a street vendor. It was amazing!   Unfortunately, when I returned home, I could not find this delicacy anywhere in Minneapolis. 

Related Article: Grocers Must Capture the Joy of Hispanic Heritage Month All Year Long!

Now six years later, Mexican street corn has finally made its way to Minnesota and has been a success at food trucks offering this fabulous creation. Corn fanatics, and foodies, are lining up to sample this taste sensation to which many of us in the U.S. have never been exposed. There’s always a “buzz” around these food trucks.

Consumers are drawn to something new, and they return when that something new also tastes good. 

Why not think of offering an Elotes food truck in your parking lot for one or two weekends during the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration? Follow up that activity with a food demo inside your store, showing your shoppers how to prepare Elotes in their own homes. The demo could be paired with promotion items during the month-long celebration. And if you don’t already offer it, perhaps you might consider adding street corn to your in-store salad bar. Also, offer a cooking class for Elotes!

I’ve sampled several foods and drinks in other countries, which then appeared in the U.S. 3-5 years later and to great fanfare and success. I am reminded of the popular Aperol Spritz drink that was sweeping through Europe in the summer of 2014; it’s taken eight years for this drink fad to show up in the U.S., and it’s having the same level of consumer approval and success as it did in Europe (and perhaps in other countries too).

How might you get ahead of consumer trends without traveling the globe? Visit internet traveling/restaurant sites; visit local festivals and fairs, and ask your employees and shoppers, who will no doubt have first-person intel from their world travels.

It also might be a fun and business-building idea to offer a Spanish language class in your stores during the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration. This would draw local shoppers wishing to learn a new language; enhance their experience with several food demo stations featuring Hispanic food specialties that they won’t be able to resist and will want to recreate at home.

Salud! Here is to a successful Hispanic Heritage Month in 2022. Please share photos of your celebrations with me!