In the ambient ethnic cuisine category Mexican is showing huge growth, with sales soaring by £10m to top £88.03m in the year ending April 2005

What brand is red and yellow with cacti all over?

Nothing shouts Ola! louder to the consumer than the Old El Paso Mexican brand, yet the majority of c-stores lack confidence in Mexican foods and have no idea what they should be offering.

Neighbourhood retailers are missing a hot prospect according to Old El Paso trade sector manager Liam Ward.

It’s not as if Old El Paso is new to the ethnic ambient arena. The brand was launched in the UK (Scotland to be precise), back in 1984 and two years ago was bought from Diageo by the US firm, General Mills.
In those two years, the drive to educate consumers regarding Mexican products and ingredients, and how to use them, has been strong.

It accelerated this summer with a £2m national TV campaign for Old El Paso, designed to emphasise the fun and sharing aspects of Mexican food. The ad specifically targets core 25–44-year-old consumers.

Currently, according to Ward, the Old El Paso brand accounts for over 60% of value sales in ambient Mexican foods, and has 14 out of the top 20 best-selling Mexican variants.

Ward reports that the Old El Paso’s Original Fajita Dinner Kit generates annual sales of £12.8m, making it the number one sku in ethnic foods, and is enjoying year on year growth of 22.6%. Ward points out that this demonstrates the strength of Mexican, as sales of the Dinner Kit have not been dented by the new roasted Tomato & Pepper variant; sales have been incremental.
But that’s no good for those retailers who’ve not yet entered the market, and are hazy about what their consumers would do with jalapeno peppers, tacos or guacamole. They should start by stocking the Old El Paso brand with a range of five skus, says Ward (see picture below).

General Mills UK sales director Andy Foweather adds: “Research suggests that existing Old El Paso consumers used the Fajita Dinner Kits as an entry into the category. We urge retailers to make space for Old El Paso and in particular the Fajita Dinner Kits which IRI data shows are the best selling kits in the independent sector.

“Consumers see Mexican as very accessible,” adds Ward. “In terms of space, IRI data shows that sales of ambient Indian dipped by 2.5% in the year ending April, and oriental by 0.6% in the same period. So why would you stock two offerings of korma sauce and two of sweet and sour? The major challenge is to get rid of that duplication. It doesn’t meet today’s consumer need.”

He continues: “Consumer awareness of the Old El Paso brand has never been higher, and it attracts strong consumer loyalty.”

The other plus, adds Ward, is that consumers like it because they can add all sorts of fresh ingredients and are happy to feed it to their children. It is seen by consumers as healthy and ‘real’ food.

“Old El Paso suits two different need states among convenience shoppers: it’s ideal for those who pop out for that night’s dinner with a defined budget in mind, as well as those who pop in on their way home from work to buy dinner on impulse. Our kits are a very easy, convenient pick-up,” he says.

“You can prepare a meal in 15–20 minutes. Basically, Old El Paso ticks all the boxes consumers demand and is a very decent till ring for the retailer.”