Hispanic Grocery Retailer: Bodega vs. Big-Box Store

Apr 10, 12 Hispanic Grocery Retailer: Bodega vs. Big-Box Store

Big-box chains have been expanding their ethnic offerings to better serve general and multicultural consumers. Supermarkets and superstores have been increasing aisle areas for ethnic products, adding signage and bilingual staff and even revamping entire stores in areas densely populated by Hispanics.

As big (general market) businesses advance into established ethnic neighborhoods, is there room for traditional bodega-style grocery stores to survive in this context?

According to a study sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute, over half of all U.S. Hispanics shop at ethnic grocery shops (bodegas, carnicerias and panaderias) – that’s more than 25 million consumers. Only 12% of U.S. Hispanics declare bodegas as their primary store. Another key finding suggests that a third of all Hispanics’ grocery dollars are being spent in ethnic stores and smaller, local-level grocery stores. This pattern is clearer among foreign-born Hispanics as well as in heavily Hispanic areas. Their shopping behavior and frequency create a complex picture that defies simple, linear explanations.

For example, take shopping frequency among Latinos. Latinos go shopping more than three times the general market consumer average by making numerous small, fill-in trips. That’s more than three times the general market. Forty percent of these trips are to bodegas, other traditional Hispanic stores and smaller grocers. In terms of cultural drivers, Latinos tend to see shopping as a social occasion rather than a mandatory chore. They often shop in the company of their families, and take their time to select products based on quality, price and promotions. Contrary to popular belief, low-income, Spanish-dominant Hispanics are more brand loyal than their higher income U.S.-born Latino counterparts.

While Hispanics overindex at Wal-Mart and Target, the big-box advance into ethnic merchandising does not herald the end of the bodega segment, but rather a complementary relationship. Despite Spanish signage, competitive prices and bicultural staff put in place by big retail nowadays, the bodega still provides a unique shopping experience, one that is specially valued by foreign-born Latinos as well as third-generation Latinos going through nostalgic retro-acculturation. The bodega emulates market cultures and sociabilities of their native homeland. It is a place where Latinos complement their new lifestyle with an enjoyable shopping tradition.

CPG brands can only benefit from including a more nuanced approach to the bodega segment as part of their distribution and retail strategies in the Hispanic market. The bodega segment provides an additional way to increase sales and brand loyalty among a large segment of the 51 million Latinos now residing in the U.S. However, multicultural marketing expertise is necessary for successfully navigating the Hispanic consumer markets, or else marketers may miss great business opportunities.


  1. Nice Blog !!! your the best

  2. Fantastic post however , I was wondering if you could write a litte more on
    this subject? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Cheers!

Leave a Comment