Demand growing for Hispanic produce in heartland

09/13/2013 02:16:00 PM
Coral Beach

Fresh-cut Mexican soup mix at Mi Mercado, Kansas City, Mo.Coral BeachThis fresh-cut Mexican soup kit is an example of how the produce section of a recently revamped grocery store is designed to appeal to consumers interested in Hispanic cuisine. Mi Mercado in Kansas City, Mo., is the newest banner for Cosentino's Food Stores.For additional information, please see: Mi Mercado revitalizes retailer’s lagging location

 KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Produce suppliers across the midsection of the U.S. say the demand for commodities used in traditional Hispanic cuisine has increased so much that they are adding staff and products.

Much of the increased demand is tied to the increasing Hispanic population, said Nick Conforti, vice president of C&C Produce, Kansas City, Mo. In his company’s home town, the percentage of Hispanic people increased from more than 200% from 1980 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Nationwide, the Hispanic population grew from 6.4% to 17% of the total U.S. population during the same time period.

“We’ve greatly increased the focus on our Hispanic program in the past three months,” Conforti said recently. “There are more and more independent (retailers) catering to that population and the growth in demand is increasing.”

To keep up with that increasing demand, C&C created two new positions. Juan Vasquez is now in charge of Hispanic sales for C&C and Conforti’s son, Nicholas Conforti, is heading up the company’s Hispanic buying program.

Another supplier in the Midwest, Capital City Fruit, Norwalk, Iowa, is also fielding increased requests for traditional Hispanic commodities. Chief operations officer Brendan Comito said he hasn’t run into any big problems sourcing the ethnic commodities, though.

“The biggest single increase I’ve seen is avocados,” Comito said. “Those have seen huge growth in the past five years.”

At Greenberg Fruit Co., Omaha, Neb., general manager Brent Bielski said he has seen “quite a bit of increased demand” for Hispanic fruits and vegetables. The company has responded with additional products.

“We’ve increased our (Hispanic) stock-keeping units by 3% to 4% in the last couple of years,” Bielski said.

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