The National Supermarkets Association Florida Chapter continues to grow and support independent Hispanic grocery stores and businesses. Their president, Raifiz Vargas, spoke with Abasto Magazine about the association’s current role, how they’re facing challenges with major supermarket chains and what’s the outlook for the association that has affiliates to 55 stores that generate 2,200 direct jobs and annual sales of $430 million.
Abasto Magazine: How is the Hispanic independent supermarket business in Florida?
RAIFIZ VARGAS: On August 22 we held our trade show that was very successful and every year we are growing by five percent in attendance and in the number of companies that want to participate in the event.
AM: Hispanic stores are facing challenges due to competition with large chains and the development of electronic commerce. In Florida, are you experiencing many difficulties due to these circumstances?
RV: We have the same challenges everywhere else. But in Florida, it has benefited us that it has been one of the states with the largest population growth, a lot of immigration, there are many people moving to Florida for many reasons. So as the population grows, our businesses also grow.
AM: On the topic of new trends that are registering with the advance of electronic commerce, are Hispanic supermarkets in your region affected in any way?
RV: It has not yet affected our business, I think that the way we move takes a little longer to reach those trends and achieve what others are doing, like Whole Foods, but it is something that we are already considering on doing and using the same companies that they are using for e-commerce and home delivery services.
AM: Another trend that is having a lot of impact among consumers is finding healthy products that are better for your health. How has the experience been for Hispanic supermarkets in Florida when customers search for these products?
RV: Unquestionably the category that has had more growth in our supermarkets, at the NSA Florida Chapter, is the area of fresh vegetables and fruits and we have been adding the department of fish to that, which has also had an outstanding growth. For example, when we arrived and started business in Florida, almost no supermarket had a complete fishmonger’s department. What was sold was frozen fish and now in all our stores, we handle the fresh fish filleting in front of the client. These are the two areas in which we have seen the greatest growth.
AM: Are companies that make Hispanic grocery products striving to supply more healthy or organic products?
RV: One hundred percent, yes, in this case it has always changed a lot. For big companies like Goya, many of the canned beans are already sodium-free, low in salt and you already see the customer reading more labels to see what they are consuming.