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Hispanic Millennials Require a Different Approach to Nutrition Messaging

Tue, 07/03/2018

The U.S. Hispanic population’s buying power is at $1.7 trillion dollars, representing a big business opportunity for food marketers.

By Vickie Allande-Fite, SVP, MSL

The U.S. Hispanic population’s buying power is at $1.7 trillion dollars, representing a big business opportunity for food marketers. Where to begin? Start with the Hispanic Millennials, the most influential subset. At 19 million strong (the size of Hispanic GenX and Boomers combined!), they are predominantly bilingual and bicultural, comfortably melding their Hispanic roots and American upbringing. 

Headlines flag an alarming and disproportionate incidence of type 2 diabetes amongst Hispanics, creating a strategic business opportunity for food marketers to message disease prevention through nutrition. This is a smart move and one where doing good for the community will prove to be doing good for business if marketers can get the messaging right. 

Overall, Hispanics are two times more likely than non-Hispanics to develop type 2 diabetes and in fact, based on current trends, the CDC, unfortunately, predicts that 50% of U.S. Hispanics will develop type 2 diabetes over their lifetime. The epidemic is real yet brands are not always breaking through on this issue. Why are Hispanics less responsive and not engaging? 

For starters, Abuela (Grandma) is doing great. The weight of health warnings is easy to discount when Hispanics look around and see family and friends living long lives following traditional meal patterns. For decades, experts have monitored and still not explained why Hispanics, despite lower education, lower income and less access to health care services are in better health than non-Hispanics. The CDC confirms the Hispanic population in the United States has lower overall mortality and higher life expectancy at birth than the non-Hispanic white and non-Hispanic black populations. Known as the Hispanic Paradox, the phenomenon enforces perceptions within the Hispanic community that the traditional lifestyle, including nutrition, is just fine as is. My grandmother would swear by her daily breakfast of two scrambled eggs, salsa, tortilla and coffee. She was generous with the lard in her baking and ate too much chocolate, yet she lived a happy life until the age of 95, free of major medical complications. 

All and all, their glass is half full. Building on familial experience, Mintel recently reported that the overwhelming majority (85%) of Hispanics Millennials feel their health is better or as expected, removing the sense of urgency to seek health advice or make significant lifestyle changes. Deriving joy and satisfaction from their close relationships with family and friends, Hispanics are overall positive about life, optimistic about the future and confident about their standing. There is little motivation to change well-established eating patterns that are working “good enough.”

Motivation must come from within. Outside sources, including advertising, testimonials of medical professionals and nonprofit campaigns, pale in comparison to the influence of family and friends who are supremely trusted and heeded. To resonate with Hispanic Millennials, messaging needs an authentic starting point, rooted in Hispanic values/cultural truth. For example: to put healthier eating into a cultural context, parenting is a strategic door opener. While the average Millennial is delaying motherhood, Hispanic Millennials start families earlier with more than half having children by age 29 (compared to 41% among general market). 

The pride and pressure to provide for their children elevates the value of eating healthier foods and exercising more often. 

So, talking to Hispanic Millennials directly about eating healthier for their personal benefit may not move the needle. One look around the living room and they can see parents and grandparents aging gracefully, following lifestyle choices that may not be the best but certainly don’t appear broken. To be successful, marketers need to get in tune with emotion-based motivators such as living a long life, getting stronger for their child’s well-being. 

For your next marketing plan, consult a Hispanic marketing specialist and delve deeper beyond functional food benefits if your target is the Hispanic Millennial. Think beyond how food nourishes the physical to get closer to what truly motivates a Hispanic consumer to engage. 


V Fite
Vickie Allande-Fite is a SVP based in Los Angeles. With over 25 years at MSL, she leads the Hispanic Specialty and has won multiple awards for her multicultural work.



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