16181 Fri, 02/13/2009 - 2:14pm
HFN Staff Report
Brush up on the high school Spanish: Hispanic culture has become a formidable group in the home furnishings marketplace.
On target to reach 16 percent of the U.S. population by 2010, and nearly a quarter by 2050, this group brings with it a tremendous amount of spending power.
Hispanic consumer spending has grown to $860 billion in 2007, up from $200 billion in 1990. It is estimated to reach $1.2 trillion in 2011.
Home furnishings companies that have pursued this market have found it responsive. Vendors have launched product lines for many areas of the home, from cookware to tabletop to garden furniture.
As manufacturers that have zeroed in on this market know, the fastest-growing minority in the U.S. requires more than a one-size-fits-all focus. With so many cultures and countries feeding into what is considered Hispanic, and each with its own requirements and needs, reaching this group presents its own challenges.
“Hispanics have huge buying power,” said Manny Gaunaurd, president of Imusa, which makes cookware and other housewares products. “The number of Hispanics have grown and so has business with them.”
The kitchen is at the heart of the home for this demographic. Hispanics are very traditional in their cooking methods, Gaunaurd said, and “They look for the cookware they grew up with.” They also cook a lot more at home, about five or six times a week, than non-Hispanics, he said.
The Imusa brand, which originated 75 years ago in Columbia and has been in the U.S. for 25 years, has focused on this demographic from the start. While it began with such cookware as calderos, it has expanded its reach into other categories as well, such as small appliances, gadgets and tabletop, he added, in a good/better/best strategy. It has addressed the higher price points, Gaunaurd said, by adding such touches as silicone to some gadgets and a glass lid and silicone handles to a tamale steamer.
And where Imusa can cut pricing by using different materials, it will do that as well. The company has experienced “very nice growth” with its comal, the cookware used to make tortillas that is traditionally made of cast iron. Imusa has added versions made of cast aluminum to hit a lower price point.
“The product appeals to all Hispanics,” Gaunaurd said. “It’s a patchwork of cuisines.” The Mexican in Chicago, the Salvadorian in Los Angeles and the Cuban in Miami all cook differently, but “they usually use the same ingredients,” he said.
Imusa will also launch a full marketing campaign this year, Gaunaurd added, which will include a chef program on its Web site. Beginning with Elsie Ramos, a former contestant on the show Hell’s Kitchen, chefs will “develop unique recipes with our product,” Gaunaurd said. “It will help consumers understand the product a little bit more,” he said. “It builds customer loyalty.”
Over the years, Gibson has realized that the Hispanic market is not a one-size-fits-all market, and it “works closely with individual retailers to offer the most appropriate products in their individual stores,” said Jack Kurilla, sales director. “We have learned that coming out with a cookie cutter program does not work for the majority.”
For example, the South Florida market is very segmented, catering to several different Hispanic groups. And although Gibson has a strong business in Mexico and parts of Central America, as well as to the Mexican community in Southern California, the products that appeal to these markets may not translate directly to other parts of the United States.
“Each [retail] customer has done a lot of work determining what these tastes are,” said Kurilla, and so Gibson works closely with its retail partners’ design teams to come up with the right product.
That being said, Gibson constantly tries to develop products that cater to the Hispanic community. In cookware and cutlery, it is focusing on its licensed Sunbeam and Oster brands, which have just started to roll out. The Oster brand has a strong following in the Hispanic community due in part to its blender business, the blender being the most widely used item in Hispanic homes, according to Kurilla. “It’s been a windfall for us,” he said.
Hopefully the Oster name in cookware will get a boost in the Hispanic community from the recognition it enjoys from its blenders.
Caldera pots in cast aluminum have been around for years, and are good for slow cooking and family meals, Kurilla added, so the company’s line will also include a hammered finish in Oster cookware.
In dinnerware, it is particularly important to consider regional tastes, Kurilla said. “That’s when segments break down and it needs to be regionalized,” he said. “Design is so personal. We’ve learned not to blanket the customer” with what we think looks appropriate, he said.
Lifetime Brands’ Vasconia line launched last year, and allowed it to court both a new customer and new channels. Vasconia launched in the mass retail and grocery channels, said Barbara Alonge, president, cookware and bakeware division, Lifetime Brands, and it’s doing well. “The Hispanic consumer shops everywhere, but these two channels give us the broadest reach,” she said.
In addition, the Vasconia packaging is bilingual “so it speaks directly to Hispanic consumers—and the line includes authentic, hard-working pieces with designs influenced from products found in their home countries,” said Loren Allenick, vice president, kitchenware division, Lifetime Brands. She added that Lifetime’s Farberware brand is also “an excellent candidate for the Hispanic consumer looking for more traditional kitchenware—and this brand enjoys a wide distribution within favored retail channels.”
Evanghela Hidalgo, president and general manager of the Americas division of Applica, said that though the company does not target Hispanics specifically, “We are paying particular attention to Hispanic consumers because they already represent more than 15 percent of the population and they over-index on our fastest-growing segments [including grills, irons and blenders] and among our target consumer profiles.” Applica brands such as Black & Decker Home are well-positioned in Latin America and by extension among recent immigrants to the United States, she added. In addition, products such as its Cyclone blender, which were originally developed for the Latin American market “are proving very successful in the United States,” she said.
For consumers who want to expand their Spanish flair beyond the kitchen, the Casa Cristina collection from CBK offers a “total home decor” package, said Jerry Foreman, vice president, marketing, product merchandise. A collaboration between the company and Hispanic television personality Cristina Saralegui, the line includes tabletop, wall decor, lighting, wine and beverage accessories, and more.
Saralegui herself “is iconic to some degree,” said Steve Bertucci, national product manager, and a huge personality not only to Hispanics but others as well. Though Saralegui incorporates her heritage into the collection, Foreman added, “It’s not a limited line—it has broad appeal.” The line also has a multichannel approach, he said. While independent retailers are a core for the brand, it is also at mid- to upper-tier department stores.
The Casa Cristina line has added about 50 new items this year, including a garden furniture and accessories group.
“She’s a leading success story in licensing, and we have a few so that’s saying a lot,” Bertucci said. With several hundred SKUs available in the line, it allows for “significant opportunities and we can develop specialty programs easily,” he said.