Authentic Cuisine
by Pamela Accetta Smith
Processors respond to the rapidly growing market for ethnic dairy foods.
The American consumer is realizing that great-tasting food comes from many cultures. The cuisine of many different regions is finding its way to an ever-growing market.
This rush to multicultural food seems to stem from the widening of consumers’ horizons. People are traveling more, seeing more exciting new products on television and trying out unique recipes from an ever-budding list of ethnic cookbooks. As business consultant and frequent writer for Fiery Foods Magazine Susan Craig writes at www.fiery-foods.com, convenience, taste, adventure, a longing for the foods of one’s native country, a burgeoning multicultural market — all of these are the cornerstones of the marketing of ethnic foods. “Opportunity is ripe for the savvy food producer or marketer to pursue it successfully,” she says.
As the ethnic market becomes ever crowded with players, dairy processors are becoming more creative about both cuisines and markets. More specifically, the Hispanic population is making its presence known and influencing overall trends throughout the food and beverage marketplace. Dairy processors are meeting the demand of this key audience with new product introductions and marketing campaigns. From exotic dairy-based drinks to authentic Mexican cheeses, manufacturers are launching products specifically targeted to this ever-growing demographic.
Pertinent Products
There are many processors that produce dairy products specifically targeted to the Hispanic population. Glenview, Ill.-based Rosa’s Original LLC, was the first company to commercially market horchata, a traditional Hispanic milk-based beverage. Influenced by time-honored secret recipes containing rice, cinnamon and vanilla, Rosa’s Original Horchata targets the Latino market with tradition and convenience.
The shelf-stable, 15-ounce resealable glass bottles brought horchata to the supermarket for the first time.  Described as a “fiesta in a bottle,” Rosa’s Original Horchata is the first single-serve beverage of its kind available in the United States. A natural antidote to the spices often found in Mexican and Asian cuisines, the beverage is available in traditional cinnamon, melon and strawberry flavors.
Palapa Azul Inc., Los Angeles, a company known for its premium paletas (frozen fruit bars) made with the finest ingredients and flavors of Mexico, recently introduced a unique line of Mexican-style ice creams inspired by traditional ethnic flavors.  
Dean Foods Midwest Division, Franklin Park, Ill., recently introduced Tampico® Ice Cream. Available in Coconut, Mango, Guava, Horchata, Banana Pineapple, Citrus Sherbet, Lime Sherbet, Cantaloupe, Strawberry Banana and Vanilla (made with brown sugar), the frozen treat is a joint venture between Dean and Tampico, a division of Marbo Inc. The premium product line, named for the popular punch drink, features exotic flavors inspired from Latin American favorites in bilingual packaging.
As recent market research indicates, one of the most prominent category trends is the continued growth of specialty and ethnic cheeses. From queso fresco to cheeses infused with ingredients like lemon or chipotle peppers, today’s offerings are more diverse than ever. In fact, recent studies show that specialty-cheese consumption has grown five times as fast as regular cheese over the past several years. To that end, the fastest-growing cheese varieties sold at the retail level last year included asiago, pepperjack, havarti, gorgonzola, gouda, Mexican, muenster and provolone.
Industry experts offer various theories about the glow that’s been cast on specialty and ethnic cheeses. For one thing, the Hispanic population is growing fast, which in part, accounts for growth in Hispanic cheese. Consumers are starting to experiment with more authentic exotic cuisines that include these types of traditional cheeses. Who would have thought years ago that queso fresco would be considered mainstream in today’s supermarkets? A review of some new products introduced over the past year supports the notion that ethnic cheeses are gaining a foothold among culinary-minded consumers.
Monroe, Wis.-based Roth Kase Cheese Ltd., for instance, which has added new bolder and ethnic-inspired cheeses to its line, recently introduced GranQueso Spanish-style cheese under its Sole brand. The category’s leading cheese manufacturers also are infusing more flavors into their cheeses to capture a bit of the specialty/ethnic-cheese market. The Athenos brand from the Churny Co. division of Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., now includes two new bolder flavors — Athenos Lemon, Garlic and Oregano Feta and Roasted Bell Peppers and Garlic Feta.
Flavors inspired by interest in both ethnic and culinary trends also sparked Plymouth, Wis.-based Sargento Foods Inc., to develop a Bistro Blends line of flavored shredded cheeses. The line features Mozzarella with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Basil, Cheddar Salsa with Tomato & Jalapeño Peppers, and Mozzarella & Asiago with Roasted Garlic. These shreds offer the food enthusiast convenient cooking options as well as suggest the irresistible invitation to add new flavor dimensions to ethnic cuisines.
Tillamook County Creamery Association, Tillamook, Ore., a 95-year old Oregon dairy cooperative owned and operated by nearly 145 dairy families, markets its cheese products to the Latino population. The company says its Monterey jack and pepper jack cheeses are particularly popular among Hispanics. Monterey jack seems to be the most popular, Tillamook says, because it’s a cheese that works well in a lot of Latino dishes — it is known for its creamy texture and uniform melting. While the cheese used for cooking in many Latino dishes is fairly mild, the company’s pepper jack is also quite popular because it already incorporates jalapeños, an ingredient often used in these dishes.
In November 2002, Kraft introduced Kraft® Singles Manchego processed slices, a new product created to meet Hispanic consumer expectations and taste demands. Manchego is a mild and creamy flavored cheese that is ideal for melting and is ideal quesadillas, sandwiches or just as a snack. The Kraft product provides traditional Manchego flavor in the convenience of cheese slices. Due to its well-liked flavor, versatility of usage in home cooking and because it is a good source of calcium, Kraft Singles Manchego continues its popularity in Mexico. Hispanic consumers can find the singles in a bilingual package that provides all of the important information they need about this popular cheese product.
To support the ethnic foods formulation trend, many companies are even adding world-renowned chefs to the menu to maintain that authentic edge. Sargento, for example, to add more international flair to its products, has hired Guy Beardsmore, an award-winning chef in America and the United Kingdom. As Sargento’s new corporate chef, Beardsmore will be responsible for working across corporate departments, in the foodservice, food ingredients and consumer products divisions.
Ethnic Marketing
Supporting the surge of new Hispanic dairy products are marketing campaigns that increasingly target Hispanic consumers — often developed with a cultural knowledge and communicated through Spanish language outlets. Marketing campaigns often are just as important as the products themselves when it comes to reaching out to the Hispanic population.
In order to speak and be heard, processors must communicate with its target market in their language through their preferred medium — whether it be through print advertising, television, coupons or in-store point-of purchase displays. Answering the call, many companies have developed Spanish-language — or at least bilingual — packaging, advertising, promotional and educational materials.
In mid-2003, Tillamook rolled out a new Latino advertising and public relations campaign in the Los Angeles area incorporating television, radio, outdoor (billboards, bus shelters and wild postings), print, Internet and grassroots efforts that focus on family and community — values that Tillamook and the Latino community appreciate.
The California Milk Processor Board (CMPB), established in 1993 to make milk more competitive and increase milk consumption in California, is one group that has long examined consumption and cooking habits among Hispanic consumers. While “Got milk?” is a registered trademark and has been licensed nationally since 1995, a separate Spanish-language campaign has been running in California since 1994. The National Milk Mustache “got milk?” campaign, jointly funded by America’s milk processors and dairy farmers, aims to educate consumers on the benefits of milk and to raise milk consumption.
Historically, the CMPB has looked at ways to capitalize on both new and authentic uses for fluid milk. The CMPB has promoted licuados — drinks made from milk, ice and fresh fruit — to foodservice operators and market owners throughout the state of California and published a guide to making and marketing different varieties of this authentic Hispanic beverage. Part of the Hispanic culture, licuados now have widespread popularity thanks to the organization.
The CMPB has also created Spanish-oriented advertising programs for nearly a decade and continues to use Spanish and bilingual communications. The National Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP), which picked up California’s “got milk?” campaign several years ago, started Spanish-language ads in 2001. Currently, MilkPEP is sponsoring ads through Spanish-language print and television media in the country’s top markets, along with other communications tools.
Ethnic marketing achievements
The International Dairy Foods Association’s (IDFA) Achieving Excellence Awards annually honor the industry’s best marketing and advertising efforts. Last year, IDFA added two new ethnic marketing categories to the competition. The “Ethnic Marketing Piece” category recognizes achievement for one piece that was created for the Hispanic audience, and the “Ethnic Marketing Campaign” category recognizes achievement for an entire campaign that reaches out specifically to this audience.
This year’s competition honored HP Hood, Joseph Gallo Farms, Creamland Dairies Inc. and Land O Sun Dairies for their efforts in these categories. Entries with the highest score in the award category win “Best Overall” recognition and represent the best work for that category.
Ethnic Marketing Piece: HP Hood
In March 2004, Lactaid® introduced a new Spanish-language television commercial called “Group Therapy” that features a group of women at a social gathering talking about something missing in their lives; they discover they can enjoy milk again with Lactaid. The national ad ran with additional spot coverage in select Hispanic markets. By speaking directly to lactose-intolerant Hispanic consumers and stressing that Lactaid is real milk, product sales have significantly increased since the ad’s launch.
Ethnic Marketing Campaign: Land O Sun Dairies
To build brand interest and preference among Latino consumers, PET implemented marketing tactics to grow market share, build consumer trial and establish and protect brand preference. Utilizing radio, a bilingual banner (the PET tagline in Spanish and English) and kid’s activities booklet (bilingual PET branding, dairy benefits message and games to bicultural youth), the company increased awareness by effectively positioning PET Dairy’s milk and ice cream products to the main purchase decision makers in the Hispanic consumer base (women, children and men living alone).
Ethnic marketing opportunities
Mario Fernandez, president of Miami-based Webeco Foods, a leading importer of authentic Hispanic-style cheeses, discussed the burgeoning Hispanic dairy market at the 2005 Wisconsin Cheese Industry Conference in April:
Statistical Excerpts
Hispanic consumers favor authenticity over price.
The reputation of U.S. cheese has grown dramatically in recent years; more U.S. cheese is being sent abroad. There are limits on the amount of some imported cheeses that can be brought into the United States, presenting an opportunity for U.S. cheesemakers to make comparable products.
U.S. Hispanic population is 37.4 million, or 13.3 percent of total population; projected growth is expected to double over the next 30 years.
Buying power of Hispanics in the United States: $280 million in 1990, $630 million today, $976 million by 2007. Hispanics spend more of their disposable income on food, a big part of that being cheese.
Emerging growth areas for Hispanic populations include Massachusetts, Washington, Pennsylvania, Nevada, North Carolina, Virginia, Michigan, Connecticut, Oregon and Maryland.
Key Products
Caribbean Hispanics — Edam and gouda cheeses.
Mexicans — Cotija and queso fresco.
Central/South Americans — Queso seco  and cremas (dairy toppings).
Queso freir or “frying cheese”— typically Dominican and Colombian, now crossing over into other Hispanic subgroups; part of most meals.