Americans Spice Up Flavor Palates and Beverages for Cinco de Mayo

Americans Spice Up Flavor Palates and Beverages for Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo is just days away, marking a major celebration of Mexican culture and heritage among  large Mexican-American populations, as well as consumers across the U.S. The holiday commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the French-Mexican War on May 5, 1862. History aside, Cinco de Mayo has become a major holiday in the U.S., a day when Mexican culture influences what Americans are eating and drinking. When it comes to fresh and packaged food, as well as alcoholic beverages (for legal-aged drinkers, 21+), Mexican-inspired spices, flavors and drinks dominate.

Spicing Up Meals with Mexican-Inspired Flavors

Flavors inspired by Mexican (and broader Hispanic) cuisines are ones that can easily be adapted using fresh and packaged products from your local grocery, convenience or even drug store. Items like tortilla chips and salsa have become synonymous with American cuisine, indicating how multicultural flavors and lifestyle can influence all consumers, regardless of ethnicity or demographics. And when looking at how these products perform across the store, sales jump significantly during the week of Cinco de Mayo, compared to the average weekly sales throughout the year.

The fresh perimeter of the store is also ripe for growth in the week leading up to Cinco de Mayo. The deli prepared section boasts Mexican entrees that are popular during the week. Fresh prepared entrees like quesadillas, enchiladas and tacos drove 13% more sales during the week compared to the average week in 2016, while fresh salsas and fresh guacamole drove 19% and 18%, respectively, compared to the average week. Fresh produce items, like avocados, limes and corn, also drove significant sales during the week of Cinco de Mayo last year.

Imported Mexican Alcohol on the Rise

For legal-age drinkers in the U.S. (age 21+), imported Mexican alcohol is a central focus for Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Whether enjoying Mexican beer, tequila or mezcal at home or away-from-home (on-premise at bars or restaurants), these categories are on the rise and showing particular growth during the week leading up to Cinco de Mayo.

But which consumers are drinking Mexican beer? According to the Nielsen+EthniFacts Intercultural Affinity Model, which gauges multicultural influence among all consumers (not just those of one race or ethnicity),  Ambiculturals (consumers with high affinity to diverse tastes and preferences and high desire to share) and Enthusiasts (consumers exposed to diverse tastes, but not as likely to share with others) purchase Mexican beer at an even higher rate than the total Hispanic market. Import manufacturers should pay close attention to Ambicultural and Enthusiast consumers as their populations are projected to increase by 13% and 8%, respectively, by 2020, presenting an opportunity to focus marketing efforts to these groups.

For those 21 and older consumers celebrating the day (or night) at bars, restaurants or other out-of-home locations, tequila and mezcal are top drivers of growth. In the four weeks ended May 12, 2016, on-premise tequila sales increased by 7%. Tequila’s sales growth was significant compared to the total spirits category, which only saw a 0.1% increase during the same period. Beyond the holiday, sales for both Mexican spirits, as well as Mexican beer imports, are growing at impressive rates, indicating their influence on legal drinking age Americans throughout the year.  

Consumers are enjoying Mexican imports at home or with friends, with the week before and week of Cinco de Mayo also showing strong growth for off-premise retailers. Compared to an average two week period in 2016, mezcal sales increased 19% during the week before and week of Cinco de Mayo and accounted for 5% of total 2016 sales.

Today’s American consumers are evolving, placing engagement and cultural affinity at the center of the stage when marketing to them. As a result, being able to gauge the cultural sharing, influence and commonalities that cross racial and ethnic lines has become critical to any successful marketing strategy. When it comes to Cinco de Mayo, grocery, off-premise and on-premise retailers need to develop and execute strategies that appeal to both the needs of multicultural consumers and those most highly influenced by them in the general market to drive better ROI on marketing investments.


Data from this article was derived from:

  • Source: Nielsen and EthniFacts Homescan Intercultural Affinity Model data (March 13, 2016 through March 11, 2017) indexed to Total Panel
  • Nielsen CGA On Premise Measurement, Four Weeks Ending May 21, 2016