Latam Food Week: 3 Key Takeaways from Opening Day

Ivonne Kinser kicked off the inaugural Latam Food Week with a rather bold statement.

“When we look at the nomadic [nature of] Latin American culinary culture, there’s unlimited sources of flavors,” the food industry insider said, as Latam Food Week 2023 began on Monday. “American consumers are increasingly expecting new and exciting flavors,” she said, “and that’s going to continue for years to come.”

Yes, opportunities abound in America for Latam F&B companies, as Monday’s online event illustrated. Kinser—founder of Vantage Innovation Lab and Innovation Advisor to The Food Institute— noted that there are now 62 million Hispanics in the United States whose buying power is projected to reach $1.9 trillion by the end of this year.

“The opportunities that exist are endless” for food companies, the Latam Food Week moderator said, “creating trends that are getting bigger and bigger every day. Sixty percent of (America’s) Hispanic population is U.S. born; they’re going to evolve into an American demographic. … That’s why this opportunity of replicating and blending in other industries is going to be so powerful.”

Here are three topics panelists, moderators, and more dove into during Monday’s online event, hosted by FI:

Marketing Evolution

Reaching Hispanic-American consumers requires specific marketing messages in 2023, experts said.

Diana Rosero, a consumer research analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence, noted that Hispanic American consumers value authenticity from F&B brands. She added that brands can earn brownie points with that demographic by producing ads that utilize the Spanish language, for example.

Meanwhile, American retailer Stop & Shop has enjoyed success of late by posting marketing messages tailored to descendants of specific countries, as opposed to a broad region.

“Because the growth of the South American shopper is so profound, (Stop & Shop) is really drilling down specifically into the countries in terms of the assortment and promotional items,” said Barry Thomas, Senior Global Thought Leader at Kantar. “They actually have a marketing calendar that’s more than just a generic ‘Latin America’ calendar; (they) take more of a granular approach.”

Enthused by Fusion

A noteworthy number discussed during Monday’s presentations: 42% of U.S. consumers have expressed an interest in fusion cuisine recently. Americans are more receptive than ever to the big, bold, spicy flavors so prevalent in countries like Mexico, Colombia, Brazil, and Peru.

For the foreseeable future, “we’re hoping for fusion,” said Hernan Morfin, a representative of Cilantro Taco Grill, which is based in Chicago. “That’s one of the best things you can do—(pair) Mexican food with (Asian) food. Grab things from all over, because you can put a lot of things in a tortilla.”

Eyes Ahead

Leaders of CPG brands had an overarching message during one of Monday’s late-afternoon sessions: There’s a reason that racehorses wear blinders; it’s so they stay focused on the task at hand, and mainly on what lies ahead.

That, panelists said, is a key to leading an emerging CPG brand to success.

“Everybody’s chasing the unicorn (businesses), but the reality of things is, especially in emerging brands, is we’re supposed to be survivors—tardigrades—little (microscopic) animals that can survive” virtually anything, said Hector Saldivar, founder of Tia Lupita Foods, including a lack of funding, or a lack of adequate staffing.

For the leaders of emerging brands, Saldivar added, it’s about “that perseverance, that patience. … Patience is a virtue.”

Parting Words

Finally, here are a few memorable comments overheard on Day 1 of Latam Food Week:

“The relationship between the source and the supplier, or the farmer, I think that’s the secret (to) success for any restaurant.” – Fernando Stovell, chef 

“You want to share experiences. … You have to have a story behind the plate.” – Pablo Aya, executive chef

“As more people from Venezuela come into the U.S., you’ll definitely see brands making more inroads (with them) moving forward.” – Diana Rosero, equity research analyst (consumer) at Bloomberg Intelligence

The Food Institute Podcast

It starts with a simple question – what is an influencer? SRW Agency influencer marketing manager Jenna Ogle joined The Food Institute Podcast to discuss how the food and beverage industry can leverage influencer campaigns and how such campaigns fit into larger marketing programs.