Marketing Across Borders: Latin American Products Popular in the US

JarritosImport-export hasn’t been around for centuries. Major companies in the United States have been marketing abroad for just about 100 years. But what about marketing in the other direction? It’s no small fact that the United States is in no way homogenous, which means that the buying power of Asians and Latin@s in this country should not be ignored.

Rising Trends: Ethnic Foods

The years between 2010 and 2012 showed a rise in sales of ethnic foods of 4.5%, coming out the other end at $8.7 billion. Companies with roots in the US are catching on to the trend, with Campbell’s now selling a “gourmet bisque” of sweet potato and tomatillo, and McDonald’s advertising a new bacon habanero quarter pounder. Latin American spices are also on the rise in snack foods, like Doritos Flamas flavor with red chili and lime. At this juncture, these companies are not just trying to market to a Latin@ demographic anymore – they know that all kinds of Americans are seeking out these flavors.

Central American Foods Stateside

A similar trend is visible with other foods – these with roots outside of the US. Guatemalan fast food fried chicken chain Pollo Campero (translatable as “chicken from the ranch” or “chicken from the countryside”) opened its first restaurant in Los Angeles in 2002, and now has restaurants in other major cities, including Houston, Washington DC, New York City, Dallas, Chicago, and San Antonio.

The company has expanded in Los Angeles as well – there are now 15 restaurants in greater L.A., and Pollo Campero is only continuing to grow. Why? Because it’s not just fried chicken; it’s fried chicken with Latin flavor – spices, pico de gallo, and tortillas all make regular appearances on this fast food joint’s menu.

Another example is the popular Mexican fruit-flavored soda, Jarritos. Jarritos (“little jars” or “little jugs”) makes no attempt to seem authentically American – in fact, the company’s US website prominently displays the line, “We’re not from here.” The company began in 1950, and within the next 10 years it was selling naturally flavored tropical fruit soda in 80% of Mexico.

Jarritos began to sell sodas in 1988 in the US, becoming the top selling Mexican product in the Latin@ market. But the company has expanded. At this juncture, Jarritos exports 1,500 bottles of soda per minute to the US, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, and multiple other countries. No longer a niche product, the fruit sodas have been integrated into the mainstream in California, and the company hopes that other states will soon follow suit.

Latin American businesses have found a way to sell their services and products in the US, and not just to Latin@s. Take a page from their book and don’t limit yourself to one audience or target market. Of course, you need to take care of your core customers, but brand expansion is one way to grow outside of that space.

What have you done to help your business appeal to customers outside your core audience? How can you expand your target market beyond the obvious?

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Tree is a somewhat nomadic graduate student pursuing an MFA in Poetry and Literary Translation from Drew University. A self-identified “diplobrat,” she spent over 16 years living as an expat in countries like Guatemala, Bolivia, and Tanzania. Tree graduated from Smith College in 2012 with a degree in Spanish Language and Literature, a minor in Studio Art, and a concentration in Landscape Studies. In between writing poetry for school and content for CEM, she dabbles in goat herding and freelancing. Other interests include reading, watercolor painting, gardening, and traveling.

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