How Hispanic Millennials use Food and Beverages to Connect with Their Culture

How Hispanic Millennials use Food and Beverages to Connect with Their Culture

By Jose Villa

For the last year and half, I’ve been involved in a nationwide research initiative focused on Hispanic Millennials. OurHispanic Millennial Project research has focused on understanding how Hispanic Millennials differ from “mainstream,” Asian and African-American Millennials, as well as older Hispanics (35+). We dive deep into attitudes, behavior and motivations related to healthcare, financial services and food, beverage and alcohol consumption. Some of the key findings of our Hispanic Millennial Project research include:

  • Hispanic Millennials are optimistic and strongly believe in the American dream.
  • Hispanic Millennials have complex and nuanced views of health, wealth and success.
  • Foreign-born Hispanic Millennials make up a large and distinct sub-segment of Hispanic Millennials.
  • There are numerous and deep cultural, behavioral and psychographic points of tension that characterize Hispanic Millennial lives.

It is around these points of tension that we identified an overarching and central tension characterizing Hispanic Millennials: they struggle with a need to fit in with mainstream culture, while trying to maintain their cultural identity. This struggle is particularly acute among U.S.-born Hispanic Millennials, who find a significant gap between their desire to stand out as Latino and how close they feel to Latino culture.

As we have expanded our research, we tried to answer the question of how Hispanic Millennials try to find cultural connection. Answering this question has the potential to uncover the Holy Grail for Hispanic Millennial engagement: understanding the role of culture and ethnicity in their behavior and purchase decisions.

Our fourth wave of the research project identified a powerful way Hispanic Millennials connect with their Latino culture: food and beverages. As we explored Hispanic Millennial cultural impact and shopping behavior associated with food, beverage, and alcohol consumption, we identified that attitudes and behavior related to food and beverages help define Hispanic Millennials:

  • A majority (60%) consider themselves “foodies”
  • They do all or most of household’s grocery shopping (74%) and spend the most on groceries ($149/week)
  • They use recipes (80%), particularly from their family (56%)
  • They have varied tastes as it relates to alcohol: beer is their alcoholic beverage of choice (51%), but they are apt to consume wine (38%), craft beer (34%) and hard liquor (32%), with a preference for vodka and tequila

However, our most important finding was that U.S.-born Hispanic Millennials use food and beverage as a means of connecting to their cultural roots. While only 31% of U.S.-born Hispanic Millennials said they felt close to their Latino culture, they overwhelmingly (73%) stated that their cultural background influenced the food and beverage brands they purchased. This was reflected in their purchase of traditionally Hispanic products, such as Mexican hot sauce (65%), aguas frescas (46%), horchata (42%) and dulce de leche (39%), almost all of which they over-indexed compared to their foreign-born counterparts. Moreover, 60% of U.S.-born Hispanic Millennials indicated that they use many of the same food and beverage brands that their parents used.

We understand that food and culture are intertwined and our research findings support this. However, for U.S.-born Hispanic Millennials, food and beverage play a central role in helping them express a deep-seeded desire for connection to their Latino culture. The result is a potent opportunity for food, beverage and related industries to win the hearts and wallets of the coveted Hispanic Millennial.

You can download a free copy of the full Hispanic Millennial Project Wave 4: Food, Beverage & Alcohol report here.

An edited version of this post originally ran on MediaPost Engage:Hispanic on May 7, 2014