Hispanics represent one of the fastest-growing segments of the US population. According to the 2010 Census, the Hispanic population grew 43% since the 2000 Census. In 2010, there were nearly 50.5 million Hispanics in the US, and they comprised 16.3% of the total US population up from 12.5% in 2000.

Consequently, any baking and snack food company would like to see these consumers making repeat purchases of its products. But what are the most effective ways to reach these consumers, and how can you ensure your baked foods and snacks will appeal to them?

“The key to marketing your product to any consumer group is to first understand their core behaviors,” said Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst, NPD Group, Port Washington, NY. “For instance, when it comes to Hispanics and, particularly, when it comes to baking, it is important to understand that Hispanics almost never use the oven.” US Hispanics use ovens only 7% of the time when preparing meals at home, which compares to 15% for non-Hispanics, he said, citing figures from NDP’s “National Eating Trends (NET) Hispanic” report, which was a year-long study of US Hispanics’ eating behaviors.

However, Mr. Seifer noted, US Hispanics consume bread at slightly more meals than non-Hispanics — 11% vs. 10%. Additionally, Hispanics are much more likely to eat bread at breakfast, with about 21% including bread during the morning meal compared to 15% for non-Hispanics. Additionally, the study found Hispanics are more likely to have ready-to-eat cereal at the end of the day.

To best market to Hispanic consumers, Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, founder of Hinsdale, IL-based Hispanic Food Communications, said companies must assess their clientele and provide for their needs. “It’s not just translating materials anymore; it’s about also acculturating it and applying it to their needs,” she added.

Speaking their language

Although many younger Hispanic consumers whom bakery and snack manufacturers may want to target are fluent in English, Mr. Seifer said it would be a big mistake to not use their native language.

“When you look at the millennial generation, in particular, it is predominately adults in their 20s, and many of them are still bilingual even though they have been in the US from a very young age and grew up around English,” he said. “The connection to their heritage is still rooted in Spanish, and if manufacturers and marketers want to connect with this group and make them feel as if they are familiar with their heritage, it is important to talk to them in Spanish and have some materials and labeling that is in Spanish as well.”

Yet, a common mistake marketers make is to simply translate something to Spanish and expect Hispanic consumers will buy the product, Ms. Melendez-Klinger said. Also, companies should not rely on Google Translate to put their marketing messages into Spanish and then expect that message to resonate with Hispanic consumers, she observed. When using a translator such as Google, the message can become jumbled and won’t makes sense because it doesn’t flow. “It basically looks like Chinese to us,” she added, noting that companies should use bilingual translators who are familiar with the food as well as the messages they are translating.

“You want to make sure that those translations are global and not just regional for one country or one place,” Ms. Melendez-Klinger said.

That brings up another issue companies may have when marketing to Hispanics. This is a broad demographic made up of people from many different countries, and as such, their tastes are varied. Although 63% of US Hispanics identify themselves as Mexican, according to the 2010 Census, the other 37% have a wide variety of heritages such as Salvadoran (3.3%), Guatemalan (2.1%) and Colombian (1.8%) as well as Puerto Rican (9.2%) and Cuban (3.2%). What’s popular with Mexicans isn’t necessarily appealing to someone who is Cuban or Puerto Rican.

“Some companies put chili peppers onto a bread and think it is going to appeal to all Hispanic consumers, but it’s not going to happen,” Ms. Melendez-Klinger said. “You have to understand the different countries and the foods that they eat, and you can provide something that can appeal to all of them.”

Diversifying flavors

Dunkin’ Donuts, Canton, MA, works closely with all its franchisees to respond to its guests’ needs, and in some cases, it will tailor its menu items to resonate with particular cultures and communities, said Xavier Turpin, the company’s director of multicultural marketing. “For instance, in recent years, Dunkin’ Donuts introduced both limited-time offerings and permanent menu items featuring bold and exotic flavors inspired by the Latin cultures in select markets, such as the Cuban sandwich and Café Con Leche in south Florida, Huevos Rancheros Wake-Up Wrap in Phoenix and Latin-inspired donuts in New York,” he explained.

In 2012, Dunkin’ launched an integrated Hispanic advertising and marketing campaign with its first Spanish tagline, “America Se Mueve Con Dunkin’, ” which is equivalent to its general marketing tagline, “America Runs on Dunkin’. ” Earlier this year, it appointed Miami-based Zubi Advertising as its new Hispanic marketing and advertising agency.

“Understanding how America’s face is changing to a more diverse profile nationwide, Dunkin’ Donuts sees an opportunity to increase consumer engagement and enhance the brand equity within the Hispanic marketplace,” Mr. Turpin said. “At Dunkin’ Donuts, we realized that marketing to ethnic groups has evolved over the years and the approach requires marketing to a multicultural nation. We are committed to being the brand of choice for Latinos looking for high-quality food and beverages, so we believed that Zubi Advertising would help increase our consumer engagement within the Hispanic community.”

The company is focused on building brand loyalty with its Hispanic guests. “We believe that a 360-degree approach is required, spanning from product innovation, to the in-store experience, to our marketing and communications approach across creative, digital and social media, promotions and public relations,” Mr. Turpin explained.

Hispanics are among the most brand loyal consumers, according to Mark Singleton, vice-president of sales and marketing at Rudolph Foods, Lima, OH. “The Hispanic consumer tends to look for nostalgic brands,” he said. “Once they start buying a brand, especially if it’s a ­trusted brand that reminds them of home, they will continue to buy it.”

Key components to a Hispanic marketing campaign include family, heritage, pride and collective togetherness, Mr. Singleton pointed out. “Hispanics value the relationship between the consumer, the food manufacturer and the retailer,” he added.

Mr. Singleton also noted that a common misconception is that Hispanic foods have to be mouth-burning spicy, but the reality is Hispanic foods are zesty and flavorful. “Products like our Chile Limon Chicharinas have a pop of spice and wonderful flavor to capture the customers’ attention,” he added.

Understanding media influence

Dunkin’ uses Spanish-language TV and radio advertising as well as bilingual in-store signage. In May, the company updated its mobile app, introducing a new language setting that enables users to view content in English or Spanish. At the same time, it also relaunched its official website to provide content in Spanish as well as English.

Having the mobile app available in Spanish might actually have the greater impact with this population, as Hispanics are much more likely to have a mobile smartphone than a personal computer in the home. Mr. Seifer noted that the use of smartphones in the Hispanic community was a reigning theme he picked up on at the Hispanic Retail 360 Summit in Los Angeles last year. Because of this, he said, scannable coupons on smartphones represent a good avenue for reaching Hispanic consumers.

According to a Media Behavior & Influence Study from Prosper Insights & Analytics, Worthington, OH, in December, broadcast TV has the greatest influence on Hispanics’ grocery purchases, with 29% Hispanics 18 years and older citing it as the greatest traditional media influencer, which was three percentage points higher than all US adults 18 and older. Broadcast TV’s sway was even greater (29.6%) for Hispanic households with income of $50,000 or higher. Cable TV advertisements also had a much greater influence on Hispanics, with 18.8% noting this as most influential as opposed to 16.3% for all US adults.

While Ms. Melendez-Klinger agreed that television would have the greatest impact on Hispanics’ grocery purchasing decisions, she pointed out social media is having a big influence as far as a nontraditional method to reach Hispanic consumers (See “Hispanics love social media” on Page 36).

Hispanics also were more likely to be influenced by radio, especially those households making $50,000 or more annually, who noted that this medium was the greatest guidance for groceries — 15.3% as opposed to 12% for all US consumers.

Munching more at lunch

Another reason food companies want to market their products to Hispanics is that they spend a greater percentage of their income on groceries. “Despite that they have the lowest income, they are the ones that spend the most for food and household items,” Ms. Melendez-Klinger said. “They spend more than any other group on food. They are the ones who are going to be buying the products, so you want to have things that appeal to them.”

As a registered dietician, Ms. Melendez-Klinger, who is also a member of the Grain Foods Foundation’s Science Advisory Board, often focuses on foods’ nutritional aspects, and she noted that because heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Hispanics, low-sodium foods will gain popularity over the next few years. Because bread and baked foods have high sodium levels, she predicted this trend could have a substantial impact on the baking industry. However, she also noted that Hispanics will look for grain bases with more fiber, flax and other nutrition boosters.

To promote health and wellness, Ms. Melendez-Klinger preaches moderation as a key factor. “We are going to have Twinkies, and we are going to have cookies,” she said. “It is about controlling ourselves and not eating the whole package of cookies.”

In regard to eating habits, lunch is traditionally the largest meal of the day for US Hispanics. According the “NET Hispanic,” 73% prepare and eat lunch at home, compared to 62% for non-Hispanics. Only 18% of Hispanics consume sandwiches at lunch as compared to 38% of non-Hispanics. However, sandwiches are still the top item Latinos choose for the mid-day meal.

A common mistake food manufacturers make when marketing products to Hispanic consumers is assuming it’s beneficial to have a finished product such as a complete burrito with all the fixings and fillings. “We have found that doesn’t resonate very well with Hispanics,” Mr. Seifer said. “You are taking away what Hispanics refer to as sazon or their signature way of making a particular dish. The convenience aspects that seem to resonate with Hispanics are things like canned beans. That is an ingredient, but it’s not the finished product. They want to be the ones who assemble it and finish it with their own signature spices.”

When it comes to a marketing paradigm, Mr. Seifer said companies should not think of Hispanic marketing as a separate pillar from their main marketing programs because when sales numbers start to slip, the first things to go are the ancillary programs. “What has been recommended is that you have your main marketing pillar and beneath it are your Hispanic efforts,” he said. ‘So when marketing your product, it’s always going to have a Hispanic angle to it as well.”

Hispanic marketing is not something that should be pushed to the side and thought of as expendable. “It is something that should be well integrated into all of your marketing pillars,” Mr. Seifer said.

Hispanics love social media

Hispanics are especially active with social media and 25% more likely to follow a brand than the average US adult online, according to the “State of the Hispanic Consumer” report from Nielsen, a New York-based leading global provider of information and insights. Last year, Hispanics were the fastest-growing ethnic group year-over-year to Facebook and WordPress.com, Nielsen noted.

“The time that Hispanics are spending on the Internet, it is all on social media,” said Sylvia Melendez-Klinger, founder of Hispanic Food Communications, Hinsdale, IL. One of the reasons for their high use of social media is that Hispanics are more likely to have a smartphone as compared to a home computer with Internet access, and it’s often easier to access social media sites using a smartphone vs. surfing the Web.

Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst, NPD Group, Port Washington, NY, pointed out that Hispanics’ high presence on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter makes “a pretty big avenue when trying to reach Hispanics in the US.”

In addition to launching a smartphone app that can be viewed in both English and Spanish, Dunkin’ Donuts, Canton, MA, ramped up its Spanish-language social media efforts by engaging with its Spanish-preferred Hispanic guests through special content on the Dunkin’ Donuts Facebook page, said Xavier Turpin, the company’s director of multicultural marketing.