A Leader in Latin-Influenced Food Market, Goya Enters Baby Aisle

Hispanic Food Company Moves Ad Budget to Dieste From Wing After Review

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For lessons in how to appeal to an increasingly diverse America's changing tastes, just look at Goya Foods.

The biggest Hispanic-owned food business goes everywhere Hispanic America does, from baseball stadiums to the baby food aisle. And as other marketers are learning, ethnic influences are also growing among general market consumers, spawning products from McDonald's bacon habanero quarter-pounder to dulce de leche cheesecake from Nestle. Goya is there, too, introducing Americans to new flavors.

One of Goya's biggest bets is a partnership with Beech-Nut Nutrition to create Beech-Nut Goya, a baby food range being promoted as "Authentic Hispanic flavors made especially for your baby" as it rolls out to stores now. With Hispanics accounting for one-fourth of all U.S. births, Goya teamed up with Beech-Nut to extend its brand to America's youngest appetites.

Started in 1936 as a specialty distributor of basic products like beans to Hispanic immigrants, Goya is still owned and run by the Unanue family, led by President Bob Unanue, one of six siblings. Vincent Unanue, one of the many family members spanning multiple generations at the company, works on new product development and innovation, including the Beech-Nut partnership. Beech-Nut handles marketing for the new line.

Hispanic vs. General Market
Goya's own ad budget is split 60-40 between U.S. Hispanic and the general market, and is handled by a single agency, said Goya Senior VP Joseph Perez. And it's a Hispanic shop. Following a review that lasted six months, Goya is moving its more than $20 million ad budget to Omnicom Group's Dieste, after seven years at Wing, the Hispanic agency for WPP's GreyWorldwide.

The pitch came down to a shoot-out between Dieste and Wing after other Hispanic shops including Vidal Partnership were considered. The pitch assignment focused on nutrition and healthy eating with Goya products, and that work will be developed into a nutrition-focused campaign breaking this fall. (Separately, Wing is handling the Beech-Nut Goya campaign, following a previous recommendation by Goya when Beech-Nut was seeking an agency).

At a time when more marketers are either letting their general-market agencies handle Hispanic or even consolidating all their business with a Hispanic shop, Goya is firmly in the latter camp.

"We try to keep it under one roof," said Alvaro Serrano, Goya's senior marketing manager. "We only focused on Hispanic agencies [in the review] but we paid special attention to their business mix. We wanted to be sure they also had multicultural and general market experience."

Goya's marketing strikes a balance between ethnic consumers who have grown up with Goya brands and non-Hispanics who Goya has been making inroads with over the last year or two.

"The two markets are at different stages in terms of affinity with the brand, and awareness and attachment to the brand," Mr. Serrano said. "With non-Hispanics, our primary focus has been to drive trial."

The current general market campaign portrays Goya as the taste that will lure the whole family to the table with its bold flavors, he said.

Although Goya knows the Hispanic population by market, neighborhood and zip code, sales aren't broken out by Hispanic and non-Hispanic customers. And where shoppers will find Goya -- whether in a Goya or international aisle, or mixed with other brands by product category -- is up to the store and the market, Mr. Perez said.

In Florida, Goya products tend to be integrated throughout the store in their product category, while chains in the Northeast prefer to keep items in one place that has evolved into a Goya aisle, Mr. Perez said. The Beech-Nut Goya baby food line will live in the baby food section, because that's a natural fit.

In other initiatives, Goya has been testing concession stands at Major League Baseball stadiums in cities like New York, Miami and Philadelphia, Mr. Perez said.

And in a further move from ingredients like canned foods and seasonings to prepared foods, Goya will introduce its first frozen prepared meals in the next month or so, he said.

Goya has revenue of more than $1 billion a year, and sales are growing by 5% to 6%. Mr. Perez said no deals on the scale of the Beech-Nut partnership to enter other categories are pending, but adds "We're open to discussing it."

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