NEW YORK: PepsiCo and Kraft are both heightening their focus on Hispanic consumers as they seek to connect with this increasingly important target audience.

Recent figures from the Latinum Network, the consultancy, showed that sales in the restaurant, food and beverage sectors among this demographic rose by $14.8bn from 2005 to 2008.

This helped to offset a decline posted by many other market segments, and the 2010 US Census is expected to further demonstrate just how significant Hispanic shoppers will be to brands going forward.

PepsiCo, the food and beverage giant, has linked its latest activity in this area to the 2010 Census, having launched a campaign based around the theme "Yo Sumo", which translates as "I count". 

More specifically, it has developed a dedicated website in support of this programme, encouraging Hispanic internet users to discuss their experiences of growing up in America.

Eva Longoria Parker, the actress, will ultimately produce and direct a documentary based on the information gathered via this portal.

"We felt the Hispanic consumer needs to go beyond simply being counted, and count," Martha Bermudez, Pepsi's senior marketing manager, multicultural marketing, said.

The Yo Sumo scheme has already attracted 5,600 fans on Facebook and almost 500 followers on Twitter.

Elsewhere, Pepsi is working with Telemundo, the Spanish-language TV network, and its sister station Mun2 on various advertising and other promotional formats.

Kraft, the food company, is placing the majority of its attention on Hispanic mothers, who typically play the main role in choosing which products their family buys.

Its research has revealed that broader values such as quality and price are also of relevance to this audience, but that a more nuanced approach is required overall. 

Chris McGrath, the senior director, Latina cohorts, for Kraft's North American operations said that mothers often wanted to "keep their cultural roots alive for their children." 

One way they seek to achieve this, she continued, was to add special "touches and twists" to the meals they prepared, a trend that even applied to "something as all-American as Mac & Cheese."

"Because we understand her needs in depth, and can offer relevant messages and solutions, we have forged strong connections," McGrath added. 

In an effort to express its appreciation of the unique preferences of these consumers, Kraft introduced the Comida y Familia magazine and website, offering recipes and a range of other bespoke information.

Similarly, while the messaging for brands like Kool Aid is consistent across all of its advertising and marketing communications, McGrath suggested Kraft had moved beyond a simple "one marketplace, two languages" model.

It achieves this by ensuring that its output aimed at the Hispanic community is not just a "line item", and is more subtle than "taking the English version and running it through the Google translator".

"We do try to fuse brand identity as much as possible in English and Spanish versions, but we never lose sight of meaning and relevance to the audience," said McGrath.

Data sourced from Mediapost/AdAge; additional content by Warc staff