(Dec. 29) Faced with the challenge of marketing to growing Hispanic populations, many mainstream retailers are saying “mi casa es su casa.”

In the past year:

  • San Antonio-based H. E. Butt Co. launched its Mi Tienda platform;

  • Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix Super Markets Inc. has its Sabor stores; and

  • recently Jacksonville, Fla.-based Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. announced plans to convert an additional 55 Orlando and Miami-area stores to its Hispanic platform, bringing the total to 103 of its 522 stores in the Southeast.

Winn-Dixie’s Hispanic store platform features the tagline “El sabor de tu pais,” or “The flavor of your country,” with each store tailored to the type of Hispanic community it serves. For example, a Dec. 20 news release said stores in southern Miami might feature more Cuban items than a store farther north.

The move toward Hispanic stores is essential to maintain market share, said retail consultant George Whalin, president and chief executive officer of Retail Management Consultants Inc., San Marcos, Calif.

“It’s a significant trend,” Whalin said. “If you’re Winn-Dixie and you’re operating stores in South Florida and you don’t have stores geared toward Hispanics, you’re missing a huge opportunity.”

Marketing to the Hispanic population isn’t something new in the retail industry. However, catering to individual populations is something that wasn’t done in the past and is imperative for a successful program, said Ed Odron, a Stockton, Calif.-based retail and produce marketing consultant.

“There are variations to the different populations that you need to know and make sure you have the right product to offer them,” he said.

Odron said produce items featured more often in a Hispanic platform not only include a vast array of peppers, tomatoes and garlic, but also dried peppers, cactus, piloncillo — a cone of brown sugar that comes in several varieties — herbs and different types of bananas.