The Kroger Co. has expanded its Our Brands private-label lineup with the launch of Kroger Mercado, described as a “Hispanic-inspired” brand.
Cincinnati-based Kroger said Monday that Kroger Mercado—which translates to Kroger Market—“celebrates the tradition of Latin American foods” with authentic Hispanic ingredients needed to make staple recipes as well as a selection of “sweet and refreshing” beverages.
Currently, Kroger Mercado includes an assortment of more than 50 products, ranging from items such as fresh meat, cheese and tortillas to snacks, side dishes and desserts plus fruit drinks like agua fresca and sodas. Kroger said the Mercado products are available at its family of stores and online for pickup or delivery.
Some of the offerings in the Kroger Mercado line include queso fresco and panela, oaxaca cheese ball, ready-to-cook flour tortillas (in the refrigerated section), precooked white corn meal (the core ingredient for traditional arepas), chorizo ground sausage, thin-sliced beef strip steak, pork stew meat and chicharrones en tiras pork crackling strips (in original and red pepper varieties).
Kroger Mercado beverages include tropical mango and watermelon guava agua frescas and crisp apple, watermelon, tropical pineapple guava and mango sodas.
“Kroger Mercado embraces Hispanic culinary heritage with the quality and innovation our customers have come to know and expect from Our Brands,” Juan De Paoli, vice president of Our Brands at Kroger, said in a statement. “We are thrilled to offer authentic products that are accessible and exceptional in quality, creating a brand that fills a void for some customers and creates a cultural experience for others.”
Hispanic shoppers remain a burgeoning consumer market. A study released in February by Acosta and TelevisaUnivision called U.S. Hispanics an “economic powerhouse,” reporting that these customers now contribute $2.8 trillion to U.S. gross domestic product. What’s more, they cited U.S. Census Bureau data projecting that the more than 62 million Hispanic Americans represent 56% of U.S. population growth between 2021 and 2030.
On the grocery front, the Acosta-TelevisaUnivision study found that Hispanic shoppers spend significantly more than non-Hispanic shoppers on food-at-home as well as food-away-from-home. And in research released in September 2022, consumer data specialist Numerator revealed that heritage identity is extremely important to Hispanic consumers and influences their purchasing decisions, including the brands they buy and the retailers they shop.
Kroger debuts ‘Hispanic concept store’
The introduction of Kroger Mercado comes just a couple of weeks after Kroger unveiled what it called a “Hispanic concept store” in Houston.
The location features Spanish/English signage and houses more than 900 authentic Hispanic grocery and produce items, such as expanded offerings of Mexican cheeses and chicharrónes (pork rinds), regional candy and helados (ice cream), and pan dulce and tres leches cakes in the bakery.
The revamped Southbelt/Ellington store in Southeast Houston store marks Kroger’s first-ever multicultural redesign and serves a local market with a 50% Hispanic population.
Highlights of the store at 11701 S Sam Houston Parkway E include 17 varieties of fresh-cut queso and crema (such as cojita seco, pandero, asadeo oaxaca and crema menonita); house-made tortillas that can be purchased from a warmer; preseasoned meats such as pollo asado and adobe; store-made ceviche; and a bar de jugos (juice bar), which offers bottles of fresh-squeezed juice like green smoothies and spicy mango as well as an assortment of cut fruit. In the produce department, tropical fruit and vegetables include nopales (cactus paddles), guava and mangoes.
The store also features bulk bean and rice bins; a 24-foot Goya section; expanded Bimbo sweet goods and cookies; a new beverage set with brands like Kui (coconut milk blended drinks); an isotonics beverage set with brands like SueroX, Hydrolit and Electrolit; expanded selections of cleaning supply brands (including Pinalen and Cloralen) and feminine hygiene products (including Saba); and a religious candle integration in floral.
“As we were developing the layout and merchandising scheme for this newly redesigned store, it was important to us to create an experience inclusive of all customers while accentuating the vibrant Hispanic culture shaped by an overwhelming majority of our customers at this store,” Kroger Houston division spokesperson Shayna Barrett said in an email on Monday. “Throughout the store, there are thoughtfully curated touches of Mexican traditions, flavors and customs.
“This Hispanic concept store is the first of its kind for Kroger,” she noted. “We look to our customers, micro and macro trends, and general consumer insights to guide how we think about new experiences, services and products. Uniquely, our [Houston] Division President Laura Urquiza Gump is the first Latina [division] president in Kroger’s history. She is a first-generation Mexican-American and exceptionally proud of her heritage. When our enterprise was evaluating markets for this concept, Houston quickly rose to the top.”
The Hispanic store format represents a test concept for Kroger, Barrett added. “This pilot will inform future rollouts,” she stated.
With Kroger’s new multicultural store, onetime H-E-B veteran Urquiza Gump will be competing with the Texas grocer’s Mi Tienda banner plus Mexican specialty grocer La Michoacana Meat Market, which has about 140 stores in Texas.