Hispanic dietary guide set to enter grocery stores

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

A new booklet providing nutritional advice and specific product
suggestions for Latino consumers is set to appear in supermarkets
in coming months, the Latino Nutrition Coalition (LNC) told

Set up by nutrition advocacy group Oldways and sister group to the Whole Grains Council, the LNC said its latest initiative is an effort to promote healthy eating habits based on its dietary pyramid for Latinos.

The guide, which will provide visual and easy-to-understand dietary guidelines, will also recommend certain product brands belonging to members of the coalition when these fit in with the diet plan.

Current supporters include consumer goods giant Unilever, Mexican food group Mission Foods and the US Potato Board. The LNC says it is also "talking seriously" to other food firms that manufacture healthy foods, which can be adapted to the traditional Latino diet.

The new guide will promote the dietary pyramid for Latinos set up by the LNC in 1996, a concept based on the US Department of Agriculture's original model of a dietary pyramid. Other food pyramids created by Oldways include ones for the Mediterranean, Asian and vegetarian diets.

"Latinos have become an emerging force in the US through immigration and their higher level of reproduction. People are starting to pay attention to them,"​ said the LNC's Liz Mintz.

"But Latinos have a certain genetic predisposition towards health- for example they are twice as likely to develop diabetes, so they must adapt their diet with this in mind. But there's no point in having a pyramid if nobody understands it or uses it. That's why we're developing educational material to back up the pyramid,"​ she said.

The non-profit coalition hopes to be able to generate enough support and funding to get its booklet into supermarkets by October. It also plans to distribute its guide through health centers and churches.

"Our goal is to intercept behavior when people go to supermarkets,"​ said Mintz.

"We want to make this information accessible to the Latino market, make people aware of the diseases they are prone to. Because even though there are statistics that show the health risks faced by this group, if you sit down with Latinos, most of them aren't aware of the dangers they face."

Compared to the USDA's pyramid, the LNC's dietary guidelines for Latinos recommend less sweet goods and more of foods such as corn, potatoes and beans, together with more fruits and vegetables specific to the consumer group, including tomatoes, onions and chili peppers.

The guidelines, developed in collaboration with the Harvard School of Health, promote foods that are traditionally part of the increasingly popular Latino diet.

"There is a lot more Latino pride today than 25 years ago. People are going back to their roots and they are proud to do so,"​ said Mintz.

This is part of the reason why the booklet is to be written in both Spanish and English, while a supporting online character currently in development will provide consumers with information in a friendly 'Spanglish' way.

"This creates a sense of community, a vibe. Latinos are very emotional, establishing relationships is important to them. They are a society that cares a lot about being told 'we care about you',"​ explained Mintz.

And the growing number of Hispanic-oriented ingredients and food products appearing on the market is evidence that food firms have realized they need to show they care.

Indeed, with the Latino buying power forecast to reach around $1 trillion by 2010, there is no choice but to care.

According to estimates by Hispanic Telligence, based on an analysis of US Bureau of Economic Analysis figures, the Hispanic purchasing power between 1994 and 2004 revealed a compound annual growth rate of 7.7 percent- nearly three times the 2.8 percent total US rate of disposable income.

Related topics: R&D

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