Please, Leave Our Abuelita Alone!

Pitching Family Values to Sell Us Junk Food

By Published on .

Laura Martinez Laura Martinez
In the annals of Hispanic marketing, the figure of the abuelita (grandma) has been used to the point of exhaustion. We've seen her pitching toothpaste, hot chocolate, phone cards -- even high-speed Internet services. But to invoke her cooking abilities to pitch junk food is a bit of a stretch.

Take Kraft Foods' latest Hispanic-targeted initiative, De mamá a mamá (From mother to mother), a program, says the company, designed to help busy Hispanic moms keep the family traditions alive through food, "especially recipes taught by abuelita." The marketing effort, announced last week, includes a series of television spots featuring Bibi Gaytán, the 35-plus-year-old Mexican former singer and telenovela actress who is now a mother of three and apparently not a very good cook. (During a recent spot, Bibi told other busy Latino moms how to make grilled-cheese sandwiches by putting Kraft singles in between two pieces of white bread and how to mix Tang powder mix to come up with something that resembles orange juice.)

Bibi Gaytán
In a press release, the company explains to us, journalists, the basics of the initiative. Basically, Kraft tells us, it understands how "Hispanic mothers go through a constant negotiation between their new lifestyle in the U.S. and their family traditions," something that might explain why we should send our kids off to school with a healthy combination of Oscar Mayer hot-dogs and Ritz crackers, which by the way the company calls "sensible meal ideas." To make the point stronger, Bibi herself peppers the information with her own take of motherhood: "I am always exploring new ways to be 'supermom,' while spending quality time with my children and providing them with smarter lifestyle choices so they can keep their bodies and minds strong." All this while throwing out concepts such as merienda and café con leche while pitching Jell-O gelatin snacks and Oreo cookies.

Call me crazy but sometimes I think marketers come up with these things just to play with our heads. Do they really think we'll fall for the "family tradition" pitch when they are basically telling us how to take processed foods out of a box? I may have grown up in the wrong "Hispanic" household, but I don't recall grandma giving me Macaroni & Cheese dinners, nor enjoying a family gathering dunking Oreos in café con leche. (Who wants kids on caffeine anyway?)

Don't get me wrong: I have nothing against fast-food or Bibi Gaytán (OK, maybe a little) but I think leveraging the so-called Latino family and "cooking values" for the sake of using a Latino "insight" is not the way to go. Hispanic marketers who have traditionally fed the business with stereotypes about Latinos (hats, maracas, music, huaraches, etc.) should at least give us a break when it comes to junk food: Give us fatty burgers, meals in a box or sodas anytime you like, but please leave our abuelitas alone.

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Read more from Laura daily at Mi Blog Es Tu Blog.
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