I consider myself very fortunate to live in Texas.

Hispanic influence on grocery markets benefits produce
Pamela Riemenschneider
Aisle Wandering

Barring the 105-degree days we’ve been having lately, there are quite a few perks. For starters, I can wear shorts in January, and the barbeque is pretty tasty.

But the best thing, hands-down, about living where I do is the produce department.

I often gush about the bounty to be had here. Produce departments are bigger, brighter, fresher and just … well, I’m going to sound like a Texan, but really, they’re better than anywhere else I’ve been.

It could be that Texas is pretty much the meeting point of fresh food in this country. We’re half way to everywhere and the first stop as shipments make their trek from Mexico to north of the Rio Grande.

I would be remiss, however, if I did not acknowledge the influence the Hispanic community has on retailers. A major force in the Austin area is San Antonio-based H.E. Butt Co. The privately owned chain has a strong presence in South Texas and along the border in Mexico.

It continues to extend its reach from San Antonio, where it commands three-fourths of the market share to Dallas and Houston.
Combine HEB stores with Houston-based Fiestas and you’ve got a powerful draw for the Latino shopping dollar.

Hispanic boom

Could the booming Hispanic population bring these glorious produce departments to a retailer near you?

Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion LLC already is on the ball. The company is expanding its “Sabor Latino” (Latin Flavor) stores after an initial five-store trial.

According to news reports, the company plans to convert 22 more stores in the next couple of months to the platform, bringing the total to 59, or about 10% of its total stores with a Hispanic focus.

Details are scarce, but it seems the “Sabor Latino” focus includes brands, signs and products geared toward drawing Hispanic shoppers.

Not everyone’s thrilled about the change, however.

The majority of respondents for an online article of the Raleigh, N.C., News and Observer said they were going to take their dollars elsewhere — one in particular saying he was glad nearby towns had Wal-Mart Supercenters.

That person obviously doesn’t realize that the world’s largest retailer — Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores Inc., already has its own programs and focus to reach Hispanic customers. Any smart retailer would.

The outspoken News and Observer readers bring me to a new point. I’d love to hear what you have to say about my articles. You can leave feedback at www.thepacker.com/retail on every article posted to The Packer’s Web site. I probably won’t call you crazy — but I don’t give any guarantees. 

E-mail pamelar@producemerchandising.com. Pamela Riemenschneider is editor of Produce Merchandising magazine and covers the retail industry for The Packer.