Taste of Home for the Holidays

NEW YORK Latino-targeted goods that celebrate everything from honoring the dead to the three wise men are hitting store shelves as retailers deliver products to feed a market hungry for tradition.

Bimbo Bakeries USA rolled out its pan de muerto, or Day of the Dead bread, for Latinos who observe the Mexican tradition on All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls’ Day (Nov. 2).

At San Diego-based MexGrocer.com, CEO Ignacio Hernández said the online store is fully stocked with gourmet and hard-to-find foods, gifts and jewelry in advance of the end-of-the-year sales rush, which, he said, yields a big share of yearly revenues.

The outlook for a strong selling season is bright with ad spending on Hispanic TV for the beverage, food and retail categories totaling $129 million for November and December 2006, up nearly 3 percent, from $125 million for the same period in 2005, according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus.

Industry watchers said retailers are counting on Latinos’ own appetite for traditional treats to ring up sales, so marketing will take its course naturally.

Still, “nostalgia has limits,” said Simon El Hage Lisha, director of strategic marketing and business development at Houston-based Lopez Negrete ad agency. Clients include Wal-Mart and tortilla giant Grupo Maseca. “The question for consumers will be: How does this authentic product connect with my family’s life here?”

In Hispanic-dominated markets, in-store displays, taste-testing and recipe card giveaways are ways retailers will market holiday-themed Hispanic goodies, said Ursula Mejía-Melgar, General Mill’s multicultural manager.

Bimbo will market its pan de muerto, a sweet bread shaped in round loaves with strips of dough rolled out and attached to resemble bones or skulls, via in-store displays. Radio spots in major U.S. Hispanic markets will tout Bimbo’s panatone Christmas cake and rosca de reyes bread (king’s cake for the Epiphany on Jan. 6), said Bimbo USA spokesman Ross Blackstone.

“When retailers develop and offer products, not just bilingual signage and staff, that’s when you get the sense they are investing in the customer,” said Edward T. Rincón, president of Rincón & Associates, a Dallas-based market research firm.