Responding to a growing demand for ethnic products, especially from Hispanics, retailers are stepping up their emphasis on international housewares items.
Just as first- and second-generation immigrants shop for familiar foods, they also are looking for the cookware and gadgets they are used to preparing them with, retailers told SN.
To appeal to diverse ethnic groups, from Asian to Italian to Hispanic, retailers are putting international flavor into their cookware and kitchen decor presentations.
Andronico's Markets, Albany, Calif.; D & W Food Centers, Grand Rapids, Mich.; Lunds/Byerly's, Edina, Minn.; Pathmark, Carteret, N.J.; and Stop & Shop, Quincy, Mass., are among a growing number of retailers making shelf space for ethnic housewares.
"It's gaining currency," said Perry Reynolds, vice president, marketing and trade development, International Housewares Association, Rosemont, Ill. "A lot of it has to do with the presence of [ethnic diversity] in the U.S. population. Immigrants use these tools to prepare food, and these folks are shopping in [supermarkets] in large numbers."
Hispanics' buying power totaled $580 billion in 2002, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, Atlanta, but that figure will balloon to $926.1 billion in 2007, a 315% increase from 1990.
This powerful Hispanic ethnic group has spurred retailers to stock food-preparation items specifically for their needs, said retailers and industry observers.
In particular, calderos -- non-coated cast-aluminum pans that are often used in making various Hispanic dishes -- are gaining merchandising ground in supermarkets.
"We're trying to make calderos available in stores that have ethnic supercenters," said Kelly O'Connor, spokeswoman for Stop & Shop Supermarket Co., a banner under Ahold USA, Chantilly, Va. Stop & Shop currently operates 47 stores with the comprehensive ethnic departments.
"That is a very, very big trend," said Al Jones, senior vice president, procurement and merchandising, Imperial Distributors, Auburn, Mass. "Many of our customers are doing very well with that product. That is a trend even in mainline supermarkets that don't consider themselves to be in Hispanic areas."
Neil Stern, retail consultant, McMillan/Doolittle, Chicago, said that Hispanic cookware essentials are steadily filtering into retailers. "They are starting to pick up on some of the basics, like tortilla warmers. The essential cooking items for the Hispanic diet are starting to be pushed into the stores."
Calderos have a "huge" penetration in the supermarket channel, said Manny Gaunaurd, vice president and general manager, Gaunaurd Group, Hialeah Gardens, Fla. The importing company specializes in these products.
"It's become a very important product within many American supermarket assortments," Gaunaurd said.
"It's also enjoyed some crossover with the American consumer as well, because it is a durable pot," he added.
Mainstream U.S. consumers are beginning to buy more ethnic cookware products, said Reynolds of IHA.
"It's another way these products have entered the marketplace," he told SN. "We're exposed to a lot of cuisines through travel, and many of us would like to replicate this cooking at home."
Pathmark has 15 stores with four-foot Hispanic cookware sections, said Paul Pisauro, senior general merchandise category manager. These sections include calderos and other basic Hispanic cookware and utensils.
"We've seen success where we cross-merchandise it with a Hispanic grocery set," Pisauro said. Ethnic housewares are successful because they are "a natural extension of the shopping experience. These cooking utensils are part of the overall [food-preparation] process and lend themselves well to cross-merchandising."
Other retailers are just beginning to carry these types of cookware.
"Hispanic cookware is a category we are reviewing right now, and we will probably put it in the warehouse and offer it to the stores," said George Satterwhite, director of nonfoods, Affiliated Foods, Amarillo, Texas. "Some of our larger stores have already done this and have had some success with it." The customer base in Affiliated Foods' market is about 40% to 50% Hispanic, he said.
Successful ethnic housewares sets start with knowing the consumer base, said industry experts.
"Certain products like pots and pans do very well, but you have to have the first- or second-generation Hispanic population to do well with it," said Jeff Manning, managing partner, F&M Merchant Group, Lewisville, Texas.
Supermarkets like Andronico's Markets that have a large Hispanic consumer base provide a host of housewares products for Hispanics, among other ethnic groups, said Connie Taylor, housewares buyer. "In California, our melting pot filters through," she said.
"Latin and Mexican cooking is really having a resurgence right now," said Taylor. Four Andronico's stores carry ethnic housewares on four-foot by six-foot metro racks. The selection includes tortilla presses, tortilla warmers and paella pans. The retailer plans to add tamale pots and a more extensive line of paella pans, she said.
Other supermarkets are making strides in incorporating ethnic cooking tools through innovative cross-merchandising techniques.
Lunds/Byerly's creates an international atmosphere throughout its stores with aggressive cross-merchandising initiatives, said Julie Griffin, culinary products manager. The retailer cross-merchandises several ethnic housewares items with food products, like noodle bowls with Asian noodles, silicone tortilla warmers with tortillas, and paella pans with paella ingredients.
As the melting pot continues to boil, ethnic housewares assortments are going to become more prevalent.
"The whole ethnic thing is growing," said Charles Yahn, vice president, Nonfoods Division, Associated Wholesalers, York, Pa. "I think everybody is going to be upscaling their ethnic merchandising."