Take a look at Portada’s exclusive interview with Ariela Nerubay here.
Nerubay is an award-winning marketing executive with 20 years of experience launching and marketing entertainment content, films, cable networks, products, and services to consumers across the U.S. and Latin America.
Ariela is currently CMO of the leading Latino Retail Superstore, Curacao, where she was hired to lead a company-wide turnaround strategy to reposition the brand in the mind of its customers. Before Curacao, Ms. Nerubay consulted for a variety of Hollywood Studios including Sony Pictures International Releasing, Aviron Pictures, and Lionsgate. She also held senior executive posts at The Walt Disney Studios and Univision Communicatons.
Ms. Nerubay holds an MBA degree from CSULB, a B.A. in Communications from Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City, two post-graduate degrees in Business Management and Marketing from UCLA Extension, and she completed an Executive Business Program at Harvard Business School for which she was awarded the Diversity fellowship.
What: Women are the earners and decision-makers within a great number of Hispanic households, and many factors influence what, how and when they decide to buy. Why it matters: Brands should take a step back and look at the needs of Latino women in order to understand more effective ways to talk to them and thus build a valuable relationship with the Hispanic consumer.
U.S. Hispanics, a heavily family-driven demographic, account for about 18% of the total U.S. population. Within this community, women tend to be the ones with the most influence in what and how to buy for the household, which is why brands are aware that, when trying to sell to Hispanics, they largely need to understand how to address the ladies.
According to Liz Sanderson, SVP of strategy and insights at Univision, a 2016 study found that, in average, Hispanic women first become mothers at 24, two years younger than non-Hispanic women. “At this age, Latina moms are busy with careers and motherhood,” writes Sanderson, “which means they have a lot of needs. This is where brands can come in to provide solutions, simplify their lives, and become part of the fabric of their family and community.”
Hispanic Women: Bread-Winners and Decision-Makers
Latinas play an integral financial role in their households. According to 2016 information from the U.S. Bureau of Statistics, 40% of Latina mothers bring in at least 40% of their families’ income, and almost three million family households in the United States are headed by Latinas. The Spanish-dominant Latina controls a significant portion of Hispanics’ purchasing power because they are often in charge of deciding what their family spends money on.
40% of Latina mothers bring in at least 40% of their families’ income.
In one study, 86% of Latinas said that they are the primary decision makers in their households (Nielsen, Latina Report, 2013). This may explain why Latinas are also starting to spend money on products that they used to under-index compared to other demographics, like home and car purchases, and the use of financial services. However, recent research concludes that the Latina Millennial also substantially contributes to household finances and decision making.
Tell Me How Big Is Your Family, I’ll Tell You How You Shop
One of the most important factors that play a role in Latinas’ purchasing decisions is the size of their families, which tends to be bigger in the case of Spanish-dominant Latinas, who are more likely to be running multi-generational households than other demographics. The Nielsen Latina Power Shift report explains that some of the high levels of purchasing by Latinas are associated with the needs of their larger families or culturally-nuanced products, mainly in food categories, but not exclusively.
When families are big, so is the need for consuming CPG products more frequently, and naturally, brands in this category should try to target Spanish-dominant Latinas effectively. Research backed by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) determined that among CPG brands, the Hispanic segment was responsible for around a third of their revenue growth between 2006 and 2010. A decade later, brands should take a step back and be aware that all the CPG giants are forced to adapt to new times, and advertising for Hispanic demographics needs to be smarter; the language difference isn’t enough anymore, you need to find out what really speaks to these women.
First, Think About Convenience
Between work, family and community (and, you know, having a life), Latinas are busy. This could explain why Hispanics are significantly more likely than non-Hispanics to express interest in online shopping to avoid trips to a physical store (Hispanic Online Market report, Captura, 2015.) Amazon has predicted that Hispanics will be increasing purchases of grocery products online by more than 40%.
Studies also show that Spanish-dominant Latinos are slightly more resistant to online shopping than bilingual or English-dominant Latinos. Spanish-dominant Latinos also make fewer trips to the grocery store than the general Hispanic population. Latinas are also more likely to go to the grocery store without a list, although her purchases are less likely to be driven by habit than with non-Hispanics (Hispanic Online Market report, Captura, 2015.) Moreover, Hispanics over-index in researching products and services online (32.1% compared to 24.3% for non-Hispanic whites.)
A Good Deal Beats Everything?
Latinas like a good deal precisely because they are often stretching resources to provide their families with the best possible lifestyle. According to Oye! Intelligence, female Hispanics are more active on social media than male Hispanics about discounts and promotions. Also, Latinas tend to share their experiences and make recommendations to their followers.
68% of Hispanic women agree that if a product is made by a company they trust, they will buy it, even if it’s slightly more expensive than another brand.
Then, it is perhaps because of the great number of discounts on the biggest shopping days of the year that Hispanic women expressed higher positive sentiment about Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday generated mostly English-language discussion (74%), suggesting that brands are more likely to reach acculturated Latinas than Spanish-dominant Latinas on this day. Black Friday seems to enjoy higher awareness among Spanish-dominant Latinas, with 58% of conversations occurring in the Spanish language.
Therefore, as explains Univision’s Liz Sanderson, “Because Latinas also like to tell others about the products and brands they love, they are highly influential.” However, the part about a good deal beating everything might not be altogether true: “According to a 2017 Nielsen study, 68% of Hispanic women agree that if a product is made by a company they trust, they will buy it, even if it’s slightly more expensive than another brand.” Which is great news for your brand, because you are already earning the trust of Hispanic women, aren’t you?
What Are Latinas’ Key Consumption Habits and Expenditure Categories?
Item (Expenditures in US$)
All consumer Units
Income before taxes
(not Hispanic US$71,855)
Avg. Number in consumer Unit
Children under 18
Adults 65 and older
Average Annual Expenditures
(Below: only Hispanic over indexing categories)
Food at home (g)
Meats, poultry, fish, and eggs (g)
Fruits and Vegetables (g)
Telephone Services (g)
Apparel and Services (g)
Gasoline and motor oil
Vehicle and Insurance
Source: Consumer Expenditure Survey, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, August, 2016
What: Curacao is rolling out a series of initiatives to attract Hispanic millennials and reposition the company as the premier Omni-channel shopping destination for the new generation of Hispanic America. Why it matters: The Hispanic community is growing and its priorities are changing, which is why companies like Curacao need to take their services a step further to take care of their expectations in a more effective way.
Curacao, the Hispanic-centric retailer on the West Coast serving diverse communities in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Tucson and Phoenix, is rolling out a series of initiatives to attract Hispanic millennials and reposition the company as the premier Omni-channel shopping destination for the new generation of Hispanic America.
The company shift encompasses internal and external initiatives tailored to modernize, engage and advance the customer experience. This will be accomplished through the promotion of aggressive competitive pricing and interest beat guarantees, implementation of progressive store policies and enhancement of the stores’ interiors with contemporary features and technology.
“Our customers are rapidly changing and we are evolving with them. We have conducted extensive research to understand their needs and uncover any areas of friction. As a result, we have designed a companywide change initiative to improve their experience and meet their expectations,” said Ariela Nerubay Curacao’s CMO, who also talked to Portada in an exclusive interview.
In the coming months, Curacao will be introducing new product launches from premier brands including Samsung, LG, Kate Spade, RayBan and Michael Kors, as well as strategic in-store partnerships with top Latino brands, including Univision Deportes, PantaYa and Los Angeles Football Club, to ensure customers receive a tailored shopping experience.
Over the past 35 years, Curacao’s retail stores have become a place for family and friends to convene and unwind. So, the company recently introduced customer lounges, featuring hotel lobby amenities, including free Wi-Fi, hot drinks and pastries. In celebration of “Children’s Day”—a Mexican observance that honors and appreciates children—Curacao premiered a new KidsZonethat allows parents to shop leisurely while their children are taken care of by trained staff and engaged with stimulating activities and entertainment.
The Latino consumer has always been at the forefront of technology, and to provide an experiential outlet for their customers, Curacao introduced a new Innovation Hub (currently available in select stores) featuring the latest technologies, such as virtual reality machine rides (VR) that customers can enjoy at no charge.
Curacao also provides a number of other services including Curacao Money Transfer, which allows customers to send cash to Latin America using their Curacao credit card for only US $2.99—the lowest fee in the industry and travel services that enable consumers to book flights, hotels and vacation packages using their Curacao credit card. Curacao Export allows customers to purchase items in the U.S. and have them shipped anywhere in Mexico and Central America. Now, Curacao also provides same-day local delivery on select merchandise.
What: Ariela Nerubay, CMO of Curacao, talked to Portada about the evolution of the company and how its new services will cater to Hispanics’ every need in a more effective way. Why it matters: Hispanic communities have trusted Curacao for decades; the new initiatives will engage the newer generations and the company’s humanitarian efforts will continue helping Latinos aspire to a better life in the U.S.
Curacao, the Hispanic-centric retailer that has been serving diverse communities the West Coast for over 35 years, is about to announce a series of initiatives to attract Hispanic millennials and reposition the company as the first choice for the new generation of Hispanic Americans.
The company shift encompasses internal and external initiatives tailored to modernize, engage and advance the customer experience. This will be accomplished through the promotion of aggressive competitive pricing and interest beat guarantees, implementation of progressive store policies and enhancement of the stores’ interiors with contemporary features and technology. Ariela Nerubay, who entered the company in February as CMO, talked to Portada about how Hispanics and other multicultural audiences will benefit from the initiatives she is leading.
Did you know Ariela Nerubay is a Portada Award Finalist in the category of Top Marketer Driven by Multicultural Insights? Don’t miss the chance to see her win at #PortadaNY and get tickets for the award ceremony!
Portada: What would you say were the priorities of Hispanics when Curacao first opened?
Ariela Nerubay: “As we continue to ask our clients what their priorities are and learn every single day about the constant evolution of Hispanic Americans, we realize that, 35 years ago when we went out with our offers and we really extended credit to the Hispanic community that was just settling into the United States, our philosophy was to make them feel comfortable that they’ve come to a store where they speak their language and have products and services that are relevant to their countries of origin… It was kind of a home away from home.
The first generation would come to our store and speak to our customer services in Spanish, they would send wire transfers or have products shipped to Latin America, so if they had family back home and it was, let’s say, mother’s day, you could come to Curacao and process on a payment basis a nice gift that you could send to grandma. So all of your needs were taken care of; if you needed to travel to Mexico or to Nicaragua and you didn’t have the money to do that, you could come to Curacao and use your credit card and then on small payments you could travel today without having to pay until tomorrow.”
Portada: And how are things different for the second and third generations?
A.N: “Half of our customers are still a big representation of that generation, Spanish-dominant Latinos, but I would say half of our customers are second and third generation Latinos who were already born into the U.S., whose dominant language is English. Because of that, we have updated all of our training and our associates to become bilingual, and something else we have done is renovate our stores so that people can be exposed to the new technology. We buy products that we don’t necessarily sell at the store, but we created an entire innovation center where we feature a showcase of about 10 products that are completely innovative; just to highlight one of them, there’s a pancake machine that literally you put the pancake dough into it and you can create 3d sculptures. Really fascinating stuff that we want our digital-savvy customers to experience.”
Portada: What else are you doing in terms of innovation?
A.N.: “We also have virtual reality games. These games are located throughout different places in the store and just by having your Curacao credit card you can come in without paying any money and ride the rides. It’s a very innovative, different way to experience virtual reality in a store environment. Another way in which we’re evolving with our customers is that families have been coming in with their children for years, but we know that nowadays the shopping experience is very important, it’s not just about coming, getting your item and leaving, but it’s about having a memorable experience. We’ve created ‘kid zones’, where parents can leave their children with our trained attendants so that they can not only take care of them, but also engage them in educational activities and expose them to the latest trends in technology that we have to offer, so that the parents can go out and explore the store at their leisure. At the end of the day, we really want to establish and position Curacao not only as a store of choice, but as a spot for innovation, discovery, and entertainment.”
Portada: How have things changed with the new administration? Has it been reflected in the business and the way you do marketing?
A.N.: “The rhetoric has been changing, but our position has always been in favor of our community, we always put ourselves out there with programs to educate our community regarding their rights and the things that they need to know in order to operate in America. We don’t see our business changing, people still come to us as a source of trust because we have been in the community for 35 years, a lot of the people that come to us were able to get their first credit card with us, build their credit and then over time be able to get their first house or their first car.”
Portada: What does Curacao do to serve the community?
A.N.: “We have a foundation that’s been around for 20 years, which provides Latino families with access to all the things they need, such as free refrigerators, free beds, free mattresses. We send our staff out on a weekly basis to evaluate the hundreds of requests we get from non-profit organizations, social services, and schools that could benefit from charitable donations, we assess their needs and then provide them with the first furniture that they need in order to have a dignified life because we don’t want any child to sleep on the floor. That is really at the core of what we do.”
We want to make sure the community evolves, hold their hands and make sure they grow.
“We’re also giving away a whole bunch of scholarships; the foundation conducts these 30,000-people events annually in celebration of children in April and we give away between 5 and 10 scholarships to preschool children so that they can continue supporting their education and go towards a higher education. For many years we partnered as well with USC to put children in college and make sure Latinos increase their rate of graduations when it comes to university degrees. All those things have an impact with the community that’s growing and we are at the core because we want to benefit them and make sure the community evolves, hold their hands and make sure they grow.”
Portada: What could be the most important new service you’re leading?
A.N.: “I joined the company in February and led the way with two major initiatives in addition to the new remodels and the products and services that we’re bringing from an inside store perspective, there are pricing guarantees that we just rolled out some months ago, and these are at the core of securing customers and reassure them that when they come to Curacao they will never pay more than on Amazon or Walmart or any other place. We have a department that checks our prices every single day, so when a customer comes and happens to see the one or two items that are a little bit more expensive, we have this pricing guarantee that tells them that if you show us the link to the same item, same SKU on Amazon, Walmart or any other, we will not only drop the price to that competitor’s price but we will add an additional discount.”
Portada: What is the other initiative you’re leading, and what does your marketing strategy look like?
A.N.: “The same thing applies with interest; if you have a credit card with us and then you get offered a solicitation from a different store, we will not only match the interest rate they’re offering but will add an additional discount so that you can be assured that your interest rate will also be lower. This year I started an adjustment in our media; traditionally we used to lead very heavily Spanish-language broadcast and radio, but this year we rolled out the introduction of a massive digital campaign, we certainly do a lot of mobile efforts because we have a database of hundreds and thousands of customers that we reach out to through mobile and e-blasts. And we have seen a major shift in the interactions that we have with our customer relationship management towards digital platforms. So we are at the forefront of technology not only on the way that we offer products and services, but also from a marketing perspective by reaching out to our audiences in a major way on digital and mobile platforms.”
Portada: Now that we’re on the back-to-school season, how much of a big deal is it for Curacao?
A.N.: “Very. We are a technology-driven company; computers, laptops and cellphones are our bread and butter together with televisions. On the back-to-school season, we focus on making people know that not only can you get the best prices in terms of technology here, every single line of computer they might need we carry it because we carry the top premium brands. Something that is very unique to the Hispanic culture in the way that we have positioned our store, and something you will never find on BestBuy or anywhere else, is that when you come and make a purchase, you get a gift.
For example right now if you spend US $555 on a computer or a phone, we give you a free tablet with PantaYA pre-loaded on it, which is a streaming service of Spanish language films. We know it’s the time of the year when students need to be prepared and parents need to find a way to finance the computers that their children need. Now they can come to Curacao and not only leave the store with a computer in hand, but also have a tablet with a free service of movies that they can enjoy, or if you come and make a US $100 purchase or more you can get a free backpack loaded with utensils. Yeah, back to school is very important for us.”
Portada: Do you have non-Hispanic clients? How do you make them feel welcome?
A.N.: “Absolutely. In fact, part of the initiatives that I’m leading is to open it up, because traditionally and for the longest time we’ve been serving the Hispanic community, but as you know, neighborhoods change. Our headquarters are in downtown Los Angeles, that in the beginning was mostly a Hispanic neighborhood, but now Koreatown has expanded. So at this point, our stores welcome Koreans and African Americans and all kinds of multicultural audiences.
Our doors are open to everybody; part of our new policies is to ensure that we have a bilingual staff that is available and ready to service any customer.
We are, in fact, starting to advertise in English and this is something that we’d never done before, all our advertising efforts used to be in Spanish on Telemundo and Univision. Right now we’re expanding to English-dominant Latinos and others that live within a five-mile radius of our stores, because we know that generally speaking, if you’re within a five-mile radius of our store it’s convenient and you’re likely to come and shop with us. Our doors are open to everybody; part of our new policies is to ensure that we have a bilingual staff that is available and ready to service any customer with any language proficiency from an English language perspective.”
Portada: What does it mean that Curacao is reinventing itself?
A.N.: “For a long time, Curacao used to be very hard-sale driven like any other retailer, and the way that we have evolved and started to serve our younger communities is very content-driven, we actually just recently unveiled our in-house studio where we’re gonna be doing unboxing of new products from all our vendors. If you look at our social media platform, we have instituted a new philosophy of content-driven. It’s not about specifically selling price-points, it’s about selling a lifestyle and it’s aspirational; it’s about showing people how products and services for us Latinos signify the achievement of the American dream. Curacao provides them with this accessibility. You can buy today, live today, enjoy today, travel today, and then not have to worry because you’re gonna pay it slowly without affecting your pocket too hard. Now it’s a soft-sell that’s about embracing the new reality of the consumer today, which is ‘we buy because we want to aspire to a better life‘”.
We should all stand united together. That’s the message we’re gonna give.
Portada: Anything you’d like to add?
A.N.: “Going back to the foundation again, the foundation is very dear and important to me personally because it’s all about supporting the community. In Hispanic Heritage Month, we’re gonna be leading the way with an initiative that is a massive unifier. We’re still finalizing the details, but it’s a unifying Latino effort that’s gonna be focused on fundraising to elevate the efforts of our foundation to a completely new level, and all that money that we’re gonna be raising is going directly to supporting the communities that we serve. So, it will be about celebrating the union of the community, especially because Hispanic heritage month is gonna be a pivotal month this year with elections. We want to make sure that we tap into the space and the psyche of being united as one community instead of being Salvadoreans, Guatemalans or Mexicans. We’re ultimately all Latinos, we’re made from people who come from third to fourth generations, people that speak Spanish or English and everything in between, and we should all stand united together. That’s the message we’re gonna give.”
What: IRI (Information Resources Inc.) has published the results of a new report revealing the most successful new product launches for Hispanics, as well as the top new natural brands for Hispanic shoppers. Why it matters: The Hispanic community is the fastest-growing ethnic group in the nation and spends more than US $94.7 billion on CPG products annually.
The Hispanic community is the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S. In the 1960s the Hispanic population constituted 3.5 % of the total population. By 2015 Hispanics accounted for 17.6% of the nation’s population and were the second-largest racial or ethnic group behind whites. By 2065 the Hispanic population is estimated to represent one quarter of the total US population.
Hispanic buying power reached US $1.4 trillion in 2016, which makes them the most dynamic and fastest growing segment of the U.S. consumer economy. The top 3 US states where Hispanic buying power is concentrated the most are New Mexico, California, and Texas with 33%, 22%, and 20%, respectively.
Breaking down Hispanics’ CPG spending by language spoken, we find that bilingual Hispanics account for 42% of the total Hispanic population followed by Spanish-speaking Hispanics with 31% and English speaking Hispanics with 27%. Spanish-speaking Hispanics are more likely to be avid adopters of new products such as beauty, home care, healthcare and pet care products, while Bilingual-speaking Hispanics show more interest in food and beverage products.
Understanding what Hispanics look for in new products is critical. For the Hispanic population healthy eating is important but moderation is key. The categories Hispanics spent more on are general food (US $25 billion), refrigerated US $13.3 billion) and general merchandise (US $11.8 billion). However, they only spent US $3.3 billion on tobacco.
36% of the Hispanic consumers eat healthy 50% of the time and eat whatever they want the other half of the time, while the other 36% eat healthy 80% of the time and indulge the other 20% of the time. Regarding considerations in healthy eating, most English-speaking Hispanics avoid processed foods and try the right mix of different kinds of foods; as for the Spanish-speaking group, they prefer organic foods and include higher-calorie treats in moderation in their diets and the majority of bilingual-speaking Hispanics go for natural foods.
English speaking Hispanics seek easy-to-understand ingredients while Spanish-speaking Hispanics look for vitamins and minerals when choosing a product. The top considerations in food and beverage products for Spanish-speaking Hispanics are: contains vitamins/minerals, is fat-free and is dairy-free. Natural ingredients are a major consideration for Hispanics when considering new non-food products. The top three categories are: beauty/personal care, health and home care. 40% of pacesetter brands that hit the mark with Hispanics tout “ More Natural,” “Organic,” “Herbal,” or “Holistic” Attributes.
Spanish- speaking Hispanics look for new health products that offer longer-lasting relief and that offer new health benefits. English-speaking Hispanics prefer new products that provide faster relief, and bilingual-speaking Hispanics focus on health products that treat multiple symptoms and that appeal to many people in their household.
New beauty products that offer longer-lasting results are more appealing to Spanish-speaking Hispanics while English-speaking Hispanics go for products that offer better results, have ingredients that address their specific beauty goals and that offer anti-aging benefits.
In order to identify high-potential markets, it is necessary to understand where shoppers live and shop and what are their attitudes and behaviors that motivate purchase activity. These were the top-selling new products among Hispanics:
What: El Super, a grocer owned by Grupo Comercial Chedraui, is acquiring Houston-based Fiesta Mart. Why it matters: With the acquisition of Fiesta Mart’s 63 branches, this new chain will become one of the largest Hispanic-focused supermarket companies in the U.S.
Fiesta Mart, the largest Hispanic grocer in Texas, is being acquired by Bodega Latina Corp., the operator of El Super stores. Together, they will form a company with US $3 billion in annual sales. Bodega Latina Corp. is a U.S. subsidiary of Mexico’s Grupo Comercial Chedraui, which had 179 stores in Mexico and 59 in the U.S. by the end of 2017.
Terms of the agreement weren’t immediately released. The Houston Chronicle reports the deal could be worth as much as US $300 million, and it is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.
“This operation strengthens our presence in the U.S. and it positions us as the first supermarket chain dedicated to the Mexican-American people of first, second, and third generation,” said Chedraui in a statement.
“The acquisition of Fiesta allows us to meaningfully expand into Texas via an established, well-known supermarket operator,” added Carlos Smith, CEO of Bodega, which currently operates 59 El Super stores in the Southwest U.S. “Through the combination of the strengths of our two organizations, we will be well positioned to significantly accelerate our vision of efficiently offering high quality products at the lowest possible prices.”
This acquisition could help Fiesta Mart recover from hard times competing against giants like HEB and Walmart, although the new merge will have to compete against the other large Hispanic supermarket chain in the U.S., result from the merge between Cardenas Market and Mi Pueblo. If one thing is true is that Hispanic-focused grocers are finding the potential in joining forces, an opportunity for growth and interesting competition.