A new report from Technomic reveals that Hispanic items such as conchas, churros, tortas and empanadas are appealing as a snack to at least half of all Americans when they make food purchases outside the home.
Consumers are more likely to try less familiar offerings if they are marketed as a snack rather than a full meal, the report shows. Fifty-five per cent of consumers, including 63% of Gen Zers and millennials, are more likely to try new or unique flavors in a snack than as an entree.
Restaurant operators may also “snackify” a Hispanic food to make it more appealing. Mini tacos, empanadas or tortas offer less food but more allure.
Portable snacks are even more appealing to consumers, with 62% of consumers saying they like to eat snacks on the go, including 73% of millennials, 72% of Gen Zers and 70% of Gen Xers.
“Street foods are hot right now, and many are easily translatable as on-the-go snacks,” the report said. “Operators should promote items like churros and elotes as highly portable snacks.”
Focusing on the regional aspect of Hispanic snacks is key to drawing consumers concerned with transparency. Calling out a snack as a Salvadoran pupusa instead of merely a pupusa or Venezuelan arepas instead of just arepas will help consumers understand the influences behind the food they are eating.
“Consumers now more than ever want to know exactly where their food is coming from,” the report said. “In addition, describing and/or photographing the items on the menu are keys to transparency.”
Restaurant operators also may incorporate single ingredients into their snacks to add Hispanic flavor flair without committing to an entirely Hispanic dish, Technomic said. A handful of ingredients are proliferating in independent restaurants and emerging chains, which positions them for growth in new snack foods.
Curtido, a Salvadoran cabbage-based relish, may be used in arepas. Huitlacoche may fill quesadillas or other tortilla-based snacks, Technomic said. Menu mentions of this ingredient are up 15.8% year over year.
Pikliz, a Haitian condiment of pickled cabbage, carrots and peppers, may top empanadas or fritters.
Tepache, a Central Mexican fermented beverage made from the peel and rind of pineapples, may be served chilled by itself alongside aguas frescas.
“Ethnic foods and ingredients are now becoming mainstays on menus, none more so than from Latin countries,” Technomic said. “But more and more, operators are looking to the next new Latin ingredients to add to menus.”
Ingredients with heat are most likely to draw interest from consumers, the report said. Forty-four per cent of consumers said they seek out spicy snacks, including 56% of millennials and 53% of Gen Zers.
“Showcasing snacks with hot ingredients that are prominent in regional Latin cookery is one way to appeal to younger diners in particular,” the report said.