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7-Eleven Spices Up Appeal to Mexican-American Buyer

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Southland Corp., hoping to bolster its business with Mexican-American customers, has begun offering more than 40 types of authentic Mexican food products at about 80 of its 7-Eleven convenience stores in San Diego County.

The imported food products are clustered in a specially marked part of the store called Rincon Mexicano, or Mexican Corner. The sections were added in neighborhoods with larger Mexican-American populations, but might later be installed in other neighborhoods, said Paul Schmitt, a 7-Eleven Stores executive in San Diego. Southland has not yet determined if the sections will be added outside of San Diego, he said.

Given Mexican food’s popularity among Mexican-Americans--and its growing appeal to Anglos--Rincon Mexicano is “simple, logical and understandable,” said Carlos E. Garcia, president of a North Hollywood-based Latino market research firm.

For years, Los Angeles supermarkets have dedicated space to authentic Mexican food and condiments, but “this is the first time it’s reached a large convenience store chain,” Garcia said.

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“It makes a great deal of sense because, unless my perception is incorrect, Hispanics tend to be fairly heavy convenience store users,” said Ray Durazo, a partner with Moya, Villanueva & Durazo, a Los Angeles-based marketing firm. “It’s along the lines of Vons’ Tianguis, which is aimed specifically at the Hispanic buyer.”

Vons, which opened its first Tianguis location in 1987, now has eight of the stores in Los Angeles County. Tianguis stores offer everything from bulk products to fresh produce and meat, said Vons spokeswoman Vicke Sanders.

Tianguis was initially designed to meet the needs of Mexican-American consumers, but the stores have gained in popularity among Anglo shoppers, Sanders said. Garcia predicted that Rincon Mexicano could become “just as popular among Anglos as Hispanics. . . . Hispanic food has great crossover appeal.”

Although most 7-Eleven stores offer a variety of products targeted to the Mexican-American consumer, Rincon Mexicano is “the fist time the company has put together a section or corner of the store that is dedicated exclusively to Mexican products,” Schmitt said.

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Products to be sold in the Rincon Mexicano section include salsa, jalapenos, mole, nopalitos, menudo and Mexican hominy.

Many of the brands will be purchased through Festin, a Carlsbad-based joint venture between McCormick & Co., a Maryland-based food manufacturer, and Herdez Group, Mexico’s largest food products manufacturer and distributor.

Schmitt said the new section is part of Southland’s “continuing effort to appeal to Mexican-American customers.” Southland also is unveiling a program that is designed to bolster the number of Mexican-Americans who act as 7-Eleven franchisees, employees and suppliers.


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