Trust and interaction key to street food success

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Trust and interaction key to street food success

The street food market in Latin America has become increasingly diverse, which prompted the McCann Worldgroup to research what drove consumers to eat these types of meals and snacks. The study "The Truth About The Street" shows the market is very sophisticated, client-seller relationships are key, and that locales are frequented by the public because they transcend issues of age, sex or social class. At we catch up with McCann Santiago strategic planning VP Maribel Vidal, who shares her experience in the study and how the platform could be utilized by the fruit industry.

For a whole day around 2,000 people from McCann took to the streets in 24 Latin American cities, from Mexico City to Buenos Aires, observing, conversing, taking photos and recording street food experiences in different public spaces, squares and neighborhoods.

Vidal says the endeavor was intended to revive the first-person shopping experience.

"We knew that the supply was sophisticated, varied and that it was very broad," she says.

"We believe that marketing is looking at what happens in popular culture. Why? Because marketing is due to people - what people like works, and what people don't like, while I may try to sell it, doesn't."

The study reveals the majority of people in Latin America eat street food several times a week, and some even several times a day. It was found that the street food market is rich in opportunities for those who opt to take them.

Maribel says a significant amount of money is passed through the market and that's not just for functional reasons.

"It is a moment when I stop and I am with another, living with the public in a different way. It is a moment when I can speak with another."

For Maribel, people who sell food on the street have "a sensitivity to what is sold and not sold which is very interesting as a source of information".

In Latin America, 64% of people associated street food with home-cooking. In Peru, consumers rely on product quality, while in Mexico, the issue of hygiene becomes more important.

The study shows seven out of every 10 Chileans eat street food at least once a week. Meanwhile, in Argentina it is believed that homemade food is better quality.

At the regional level the street caters for all, and in all countries 'flavor' wins out over 'healthy'. Mirabel emphasizes that street food is "democratic" because it is not exclusive and anyone can consume it.

Consumers highlighted their reasons for consuming in this market as its price, speed, freshness and convenience, where sellers have to be experts in marketing, human relations and public relations, as well as sales.

Fruit sector opportunities

Vidal says if the produce industry decides to boost its presence in the street food market, a focus group with street sellers would be necessary to better understand.

"They are the ones who are going to say yes and no - as they are so sensitive as to how the business moves, they know exactly how much to buy and what they have to carry that day."

She says sellers have a good idea of where and where not to sell certain product. For example, in Chile there are areas where they know they can sell sopaipillas (pumpkin pastry), and where they can sell fresh juice, diced fruit or salads.

"There is an issue of segmentation. Imagine carts selling fruit according to the season," she suggests, where the idea would be to attract consumers who want something healthier.

"Since people already have a culture of eating on the street, because people trust what is sold on the street, you can sell anything aligned with what they like.

"There are people who could eat from the street but don’t because the supply is not there."

She says countries like her own can learn from the strong presence of fruit in Chinese street food markets, having experienced them herself during a visit to the Asian country last Southern Hemisphere autumn.

"As it was entering spring there were pineapples. The same person selling sweet potatoes was selling pineapples. He peeled it in a minute and put it on a stick with a bag. Others sold strawberries on sticks with or without candy.

"Others were more elaborate with strawberries and kiwifruit. The Chinese eat a lot of fruit and vegetables. Everything they sold was designed so that you don't stain your hands. They also prepare it there so you get to see how they peel the pineapple.

"The channels are there, the habits are there, but what has to be done is adding the supply so that all these people that could [consume]."

Photo: McCann Worldgroup

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