(Jan. 8, 12:38 p.m.) As retailers increasingly offer produce catered to the growing Hispanic population, suppliers say considering their country of origin is equally important.

“Everybody wants to go after Hispanic consumers, but there’s certain niche opportunities within each culture,” said Mark Vertrees, marketing director for M&M Farms, Miami, which specializes in tropical roots and sources boniato from Costa Rica, yellow yams and calabaza from Jamaica, mangoes from Haiti, roots from Nicaragua and Honduras and coconuts, habanero peppers and sweet limes from the Dominican Republic.

“Many retailers, when they think of Hispanics, they think they all eat basically the same thing, and nothing can be further from the truth,” Vertrees said. “Mexican Hispanics eat different than Cuban Hispanics and other Central American and South American Hispanics.”

Vertrees said knowing who shops in their stores and what their culture is goes a long way in knowing how to merchandise the section.

“Retailers will tend to group Hispanics into one segment and that would be like lumping all Europeans into one demographic. Italians don’t eat the same types of things as the British or the French,” he said.

“Our Hispanic brand, Amigos United, caters directly to our Hispanic guests,” Eddie Owens, director of corporate communications for United Supermarkets, Lubbock, Texas, said of United’s Hispanic-targeted stores.

“It is a rapidly growing demographic here in Texas and certainly in West Texas and we think it is very, very important that we meet their unique expectations and desires as far as their grocery shopping experience is concerned,” he said.

Owens said most of the consumers served by Amigos stores are Mexican in origin, but some communities are from different Latin American countries.

Vertrees said Hispanics of different countries and regions may be unfamiliar with a particular tropical, or they may call it by a different name.

“If you were to try to sell a boniato — M&M’s specialty — to a Mexican Hispanic, they would likely be very unfamiliar. They’ve heard of yuca, and when it comes to tropical roots, it is one that transcends across many Hispanic demographics,” he said.

Vertrees said yuca is the most popular tropical root among Hispanics, many of whom don’t consider a meal complete without one. In this case, yuca is an example of a root that “overlaps” with many different Hispanic groups.

“There are 2 million Cubans in Florida, most of which are in Miami,” he said. “We also have a large Mexican population, more in the central part of the state where I live.”

Vertrees said M&M Tropicals, which has recently re-branded from “M&M Farms” to emphasize its line of tropical products, helps stores to build their offerings around local demographics.

“We tell them if they can give us the demographics of those stores, we can help them put together a category management plan to effectively merchandise,” he said. “This is an area that we saw had tremendous potential if the retailers wanted to grow that for their demographic. They were missing opportunity in those stores.”