Americas the Beautiful

The opportunities in Central and South American culture will make your mouth water.
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the December 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

The fastest-growing bread is tortillas, and salsa surpassed ketchup to become America's favorite condiment years ago. You know Latin products are hot, so what's the next big horizonte? The fastest-growing segments of the Hispanic market are people from Central and South America, so pupusas and chimichurri sauce might soon find their way onto your menu, too. With so many nostalgic Latin expatriates and their descendents living in the States-not to mention other Americans with exotic palates-manufacturing, importing and distributing authentic Latin American food products typically not available here is a great opportunity.

"The Latino community is a continental community," says Alex Lopez Negrete, president of Lopez Negrete Advertising, a Houston firm that helps corporations like Bank of America, Tyson Foods and Wal-Mart make profitable, relevant overtures to the Hispanic consumer segment. Hispanics living in the United States (of which there are 35.3 million, according to the 2000 Census) maintain connections to their countries of origin even if they were born and raised here, frequently traveling back and forth to visit their families there. They also regularly purchase items to send back to their families, including household goods such as electronics and housewares.

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To find out more about what issues are important to U.S. Hispanics, check out some leading Web sites geared toward this market:

Technology use among U.S. Hispanics is growing at a faster rate than among any other segment of the population. Internet connectivity has spread throughout Latin America, and broadband is increasingly available there, so keeping in touch with abuela and abuelo via video chat is starting to catch on. Software, hardware (such as prepackaged e-mail-ready PCs), networks and other peripherals, including cameras, speakers and microphones that facilitate international communication between families, are very attractive for this continental consumer. There are also opportunities in the financial service sector, with a need for services that facilitate sending money to Latin America.

For entrepreneurs in the clothing and accessory business, perhaps the most relevant statistic to note is that one-third of Hispanics are under the age of 18; overall, the Hispanic population is younger than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Hispanics have been largely ignored by the major fashion houses, and there aren't many Latino designers for them to be loyal to. With so many Hispanic teens in the market, this could be a very attractive niche.

Keep in mind that a large part of the Hispanic market is bilingual, so they are reading, watching and listening to marketing messages in both English and Spanish. But never assume that Hispanic marketing is just about marketing in language. Hispanic marketing is also about marketing in culture.

"Our needs, our priorities, our realities as Latinos are affected by where we are and the level of acculturation," says Lopez Negrete. And don't confuse acculturation with assimilation. "Latinos have learned that we no longer have to shed who we are culturally. Yes, we become participants in the American dream and participate and learn the American culture, but we're still Latinos."

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