Thought for food. (Or why the big grocery chains are missing the point.) Part 2.


What are those motivations?

Multicultural marketing is even more critical for grocery stores because food is central to the lives of S Asians and Chinese.
Among Canada's other immigrants groups, only the Italians and Portuguese place similar emphasis on food, and on meals.

S Asians are heavy eaters and have large, multi-generational households - they buy groceries in large amounts.

Among S Asians and Chinese alike, meals are family affairs, rituals that mark the gathering of elders and children.
Meals are rarely eaten front of a TV. Children are taught to never waste, to respect their elders at the table, to treat the food itself with respect.

Recipes are inherited and passed down, generation to generation.
Short-cuts in cooking (like mixed frozen veg.) are tolerated as a guilty convenience but meals from a box or TV dinners are completely verboten.

And while both groups may be budget-conscious, food is invested with a cultural significance beyond its nutritional value.

When I lived in Hong Kong, a common Cantonese greeting was "sic fan?" which is akin to saying "have you eaten?" because if you've eaten, then surely you're doing fine.

There's so much more. There's food-lore and foods for rituals and cultural understanding of family structure - all of it food-centric.
Then there's what I call the "value families/family values" phenomenon - these are budget conscious food-savvy consumers who know how to buy quality fresh foods using taste, smell, heft and family knowledge, and for them, placing an excellent (not just adequate) meal on the table is paramount.

It's a shocking mistake on the part of grocery stores to delay or avoid communicating with this market any longer.
The first movers will win a loyal following.

It's the reason why T&T has been so successful - the Chinese consumer was ignored for so long by the big grocers - and T&T is the real deal, a genuinely Chinese supermarket chain.

My advice to grocery stores would be, "speak now or forever lose your piece of the pie-chart."

A 2006 study (I think from Manifold Data Mining) showed that S Asians in Toronto spent $12.6 billion on retail goods and services and the Chinese spent $12.3 billion.

In terms of purchasing power that's pretty hefty clout.

Add to that the fact that by 2017 about half of all visible minorities in Canada will be either S Asian or Chinese according to Stats Can and these markets suddenly aren't merely impressive, they're critical for business.

Maybe it's time the grocery stores went shopping - for better ideas, and better ways to connect with the new Canadian consumer.

Food for thought for food.


Photography by Desi Zavatta Musolino, via Flickr.
Article: Creative Commons License 2008 Gavin Barrett

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 2.5 Canada License.

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1 comment :

Anonymous said...

White people would have their food "beamed" into their stomachs so they could avoid the inconvenience of eating.

White people under the age of 40+ simply don't know how to cook and don't want to know how to cook.

The big chains need to embrace the immigrants. They are the only people who cook anymore.

Everyone else just reheats.

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