Stories

Foodland Mercado is part of booming Latino supermarkets in San Diego

July 22, 2011

By Pablo Jaime Sainz

    Each week, as a good homemaker, Doña Lucia Guerrero goes grocery shopping while trying to save and finding the

Chula Vista shoppers enjoy their choice of Hispanic foods now offered at Foodland Mercado

products she uses to prepare delicious Mexican dishes for her family.

    But instead of going to the big supermarket chains like Vons, Ralph’s or Albertson’s, Guerrero goes to Foodland Market, part of the new rise of supermarkets that focus on meeting the needs of the Latino community in San Diego County.

    “Here I find everything to make pozole, menudo, chicken taquitos, I find all the vegetables, like Mexican squash and various types of chile,” said Guerrero on July 13, the day that Foodland Mercado celebrated the grand opening of its new market on Third Avenue in Chula Vista, number five in San Diego County. “The other markets don’t carry what I need. This is almost like being in a Tijuana market because of the variety of products they have.”

    Guerrero, like many Latinos, is turning to supermarkets that know that Latinos have different tastes and flavors than the general population. That’s why, in addition to Foodland Mercado, Northgate Gonzalez Market chains like, Vallarta Market and El Super, have been opening branches from Escondido to Chula Vista.

    There’s a very simple yet powerful reason for this boom in Latino supermarkets: The Latino community is growing and spending a lot, according to Doug Dallo, one of the owners of Foodland Mercado.

    “It’s very attractive to our company to bring to the Hispanic community the products they need in their kitchens and homes,” said Dallo. “There is a tremendous growth and great potential in this market.”

    And judging by the number of people attending the grand opening of Foodland Mercado in Chula Vista last week, really the Latino community is responding to the supermarkets that focus on bringing the right products.

    “Look, they have all the ingredients you need to make a carne asada this weekend,” said Mario Rios laughing, while in the Carniceria department at Foodland.

    Northgate Gonzalez Market has locations in Chula Vista and San Diego, Vallarta has stores in Escondido and National City. And El Super opened last year in National City. Foodland Mercado, part of a larger chain that includes Hometown and Eduardo’s, has branches in San Diego, El Cajon, and Chula Vista.

    Almost all of these supermarkets have carnicerias, tortillerias, panaderias, and some of them even have Cocinas, where costumers can buy prepared items, such as carnitas, tacos, and caldos.

    “The moment you enter this marketa it gives you the smell of Mexico,” said Mariana Garza, while doing her shopping at Foodland Mercado. “You feel at home, where you find what you like to eat.”

    Dallo said that in 1989, when his family opened its first supermarket in San Diego County, it was difficult to find supermarkets that focused on Latinos.

    “Now it has become a big market,” he said. “If the big chains do not account for Hispanics those chains are missing a large consumer segment.”

    Unfortunately, the traditional big U.S. chains, including Albertson’s and Vons, usually only have half a hall dedicated to “Hispanic Foods,” which includes products such as Chocolate Abuelita and other brands. But beyond that, they are far behind compared to chains such as Foodland Mercado.

    “We Mexicans like to eat well,” said Olivia Rivera, as she went shopping the day of the opening of Foodland Mercado. “And while we continue to find the products here that we need at good prices we are going to keep coming back.”

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