Direct Marketing Of Aquaculture Products To Hispanic Consumers

Siddhartha Dasgupta, Kelly Probst and Scarlett Wesley from the Aquaculture Research Centre at Kentucky State University look at direct marketing of aquaculture products to Hispanic consumers in the University's newsletter, Kentucky Aquatic Farming.


The Hispanic population in Kentucky is substantial and growing: according to the 2000 US Census, Kentucky had approximately 60,000 reported Hispanics; however, it is suspected that this number is much higher. Estimated Hispanic population by 2006 was greater than 94,000 individuals (US Census Bureau, 2010). Anecdotal evidence indicates that Hispanic consumers buy fresh food products from farms, which includes live animals. If this is true, Hispanics would be an important marketing asset for small-scale farmers in Kentucky and in other states.

This paper investigates the potential of selling fresh fish and crustaceans directly to Hispanic consumers. Data for this paper were collected in Kentucky; however, the results may be applicable to other states with aquaculture production and Hispanic consumers.

Material and Methods

Data were collected from a Hispanic consumer survey conducted during 2010 in Franklin, Fayette, Shelby, and Jefferson counties of Kentucky. These counties were chosen for their significant Hispanic population. The survey was administered in Spanish, and Hispanic respondents indicated their grocery buying habits and willingness to purchase products directly from a producer. The survey questions were developed during 2009 from discussions with a focus group of Hispanic consumers, restaurateurs/ caterers, and Extension professionals at Kentucky State University specialized in serving Hispanic households. This focus group advised university researchers about products and product forms that Hispanics purchase in their home countries and in the United States. They also indicated what types of food shopping habits to expect. The completed questionnaire was later tested by this Hispanic focus group to ensure that the questions were relevant. The targeted aquaculture products were tilapia, channel catfish, largemouth bass, and freshwater prawns. A total of 144 completed survey questionnaires contained useful data.

This paper contains descriptive results that characterize the Hispanic direct-to-consumer market in Kentucky. Hispanic consumer preferences were analyzed statistically


Respondent characteristics

Table 1 contains a summary of respondent demographics, juxtaposed to corresponding 2007 U. S. Hispanic population demographics. It shows that most of the respondents were young with 72 per cent being 40-years old or younger. The majority of Hispanic consumers were not very highly educated: 67 per cent had a high school education or less. Most respondents were from Mexico, with only 25 per cent of respondents from other Latin American nations. More than half of the respondents received less than $20,000 as annual household income. Fifty-three percent of respondents were employed as either agricultural workers or as laborers.

Table 1. Distribution Of Demographic Information Expressed as a Percentage of the 144 Respondents. US Hispanic Population Demographics are Provided for Comparison Purposes.

  Our dataa US Hispanic populationb
Male 45% 51%
Female 47% 49%
30 or less 41% 57%
31 - 40 31% 17%
41 - 50 13% 13%
51 - 60 3% 7%
61 - 65 1% 2%
66 or more 0% 4%
High School or below 67% 71%
Technical 18% -c
4-year degree or more 7% 10%
Country of Origin
Mexico 65% 65%
Honduras 6% 1%
Guatemala 4% 2%
El Salvador 3% 3%
Nicaragua 3% 1%
Other 9% 28%
Household Income
Less than $20K 52% 20%
>$20K but <$30K 28% 15%
>>$30K but <$40K 10% 13%
>$40K but <$50K 2% 11%
>$50K 2% 40%
Occupation of breadwinner:
Agricultural industry 26% 7%
Labor 27% 27%
Sales 3% 14%
Management 6% 11%
a Percentages do not always sum to 100% due to lack of responses to various questions from completed questionnaires
b 2007 data from United States Census Bureau:
c Data unavailable

Food Purchasing Behavior

Table 2 contains results pertaining to grocery shopping habits and preferences. Large chain supermarkets, such as Wal-Mart and Kroger were the main food source for 44 per cent and 30 per cent of respondents, respectively. This was followed by 15 per cent of respondents using smaller chain-groceries such as Save-A-Lot as their main food source. While only 10 per cent of respondents considered Hispanic stores to be their main grocer, 72 per cent of respondents made at least 2 trips to Hispanic grocery stores per month. Forty-seven percent of respondents bought groceries during the week, while 39 per cent bought groceries during weekends only. Fifty-five percent of respondents spent $300 or less per month on groceries.

Table 2. Food Purchasing Habits and Preferences of 144 Hispanic Consumers in Kentucky (those responding to our questionnaire).

Questions Main Responses
Respondent is the principal grocery shopper 76%
Main grocery store is Wal-Mart (44%), Kroger (30%),smaller U.S. chain store (15%), Hispanic store (10%)
Number of grocery shopping trips per month 2-3 (38%); 4 (35%); >4 (15%)
Number of grocery shopping trips per month to Hispanic stores 0 (10%); 1 (16%); 2-3 (45%); 4 (15%)
Number of grocery shopping trips per month to farmers’ markets 0 (69%); 1 (19%)
Grocery shopping times Weekend only (39%); During week only (47%)
Grocery spending per month $0-$199 (27%);
$200-$299 (29%)
$300-$399 (20)%
$400-$499 (13%)
$500-$599 (6%)
$600 or more (4%)
Are you willing (and/or able) to travel to a farm to buy food products? Willing (56%); Not willing (21%);
Willing but no transport (16%)
How many miles will you travel to a farm from your residence? up to 5 (24%); >= 5 - 10 (27%);
>= 10 - 20 (21%)
Would you prefer vendors brought food products directly from farms to your community? Yes (85%); No (9%)

A major impetus of this study was to investigate the willingness of Hispanic consumers to purchase food directly from farms. Seventy-two percent of respondents were willing to travel to farms to buy food products. Twenty-four percent of respondents were willing to travel to farms within a 5-mile radius of their residence, another 27 per cent of respondents were willing to travel up to 10 miles of their residence, and an additional 21 per cent of respondents were willing to travel up to 20 miles from their residence. Correspondingly, 85 per cent of respondents were willing to patronize vendors bringing food products from farms to their communities.

Willingness to Buy Aquaculture Products from Farms

Respondents indicated a strong desire to purchase various fish and crustaceans from Kentucky farms. Table 3 lists various Kentucky aquaculture products in decreasing order of popularity. Eighty-four percent of respondents were willing to purchase locally-grown tilapia and 48 per cent of respondents were willing to buy freshwater prawns. This is encouraging news because research results and field demonstrations have shown that both tilapia and freshwater prawns could be simultaneously cultured in the same pond, in a small farm/limited resource setting (Danaher, Coyle, & Tidwell, 2004; Danaher, Tidwell, Coyle, Dasgupta, & Zimba, 2007).

Table 3. Types of Seafood Products that Respondents Would Like to Buy for At-Home Consumption. Each of the 142 Respondents was Allowed to have Multiple Answers.

Seafood type Number of respondents Percentage
Tilapia 119 84%
Freshwater Prawns 68 48%
Bass 44 31%
Catfish 35 25%

Table 4 lists preferred product forms for fish by Hispanic consumers in decreasing order of popularity. Whole fish was the most preferred form (80 per cent popularity) followed by fresh fillets (48 per cent popularity). Frozen fillets, at 16 per cent popularity, were not a very sought after item.

Table 4. Preferred Fish Product Forms. Each of the 143 Respondents Was Allowed to Have Multiple Answers.

Seafood type Number of respondents Percentage
Whole fish (not live) 114 80%
Fresh fillet 64 45%
Live 25 18%
Frozen Fillet 23 16%

Table 5 reports various preferred sources for buying aquaculture products. While supermarkets were the most popular source, it is unlikely that small-scale producers will sell to supermarkets. This is because the conflux of higher production costs in small-scale farms and price markups usually made by supermarkets make products from small-scale farms unaffordable to many supermarket shoppers. However, Table 5 shows that 35 per cent of respondents were willing to buy local aquaculture products from a farm. Arguably, these consumers will also buy the same products if vendors transported the seafood items to their communities. This is an important result for small-scale producers seeking direct-to-consumer markets. No respondent wanted to shop at farmers’ markets, usually due to the language barrier; most farmers’ market vendors did not speak Spanish.

Table 5. Preferred Outlets for Seafood Purchases. Each of the 143 Respondents was Allowed to Have Multiple Answers.

Seafood type Number of respondents Percentage
Supermarket 82 57%
Farm 51 35%
Hispanic grocery store 26 18%
Farmers' market 0 0%

We segmented the group of respondents who indicated preference towards tilapia. This would allow producers to better-target their promotional activities among Hispanic consumers. Chi-squared tests indicated that respondents who wanted to obtain fresh foods directly from a farm had a significantly higher inclination to buy live tilapia (P = 8.13 per cent). Consumers who used Hispanic stores as their main grocery source also showed a significantly higher willingness to buy live tilapia (P = 0.7 per cent).

The survey asked respondents to provide the maximum that they will pay for a 2 lb tilapia. This size of fish is a common harvest size in Kentucky (Danaher, Coyle, & Tidwell 2004). Figure 1 shows interviewees' willingness to pay (WTP) certain prices for tilapia. Clearly, $2/lb was a popular price with 28 per cent of respondents stating this WTP, followed by 2.25/lb. The weighted mean stated WTP was $2.33/lb plus or minus $0.54/lb.


Gallons, Toensmeyer, Bacon, and German (1997) indicated that the typical US consumer that purchased food products directly from farms was a well-educated, upper-middle class, suburban individual. This paper shows that Hispanic consumers, most of whom were less-educated and with low income, are also interested in purchasing food products directly from farms. The results show that 72 per cent of surveyed Hispanic consumers were willing to buy food products at a farm and 85 per cent were willing to patronize vendors selling farm products in their communities (Table 2).

A substantial proportion of Hispanic consumers (35 per cent) preferred to buy fresh aquaculture products at a farm (Table 5). The survey respondents viewed Kentucky’s aquaculture products favorably: tilapia received 84 per cent consumer approval, followed by freshwater prawns at a 48 per cent consumer approval (Table 3). Other results show that Hispanic consumers preferred whole fish over fillets. This is encouraging for small-scale aquaculture farmers who usually find processing fish to be prohibitively expensive.

This paper shows that sales of fish/crustaceans to Hispanic consumers would improve if such activities focus upon population segments that are willing purchase food from farms and/or buy groceries mainly from Hispanic stores. Results indicate that aquaculture products could be sold by: 1) having fish at farms near Hispanic communities and advertising products in Spanish, 2) bringing products to Hispanic communities, similar to a mobile farmers’ market, and/or 3) using Hispanic grocers as “middle men”. The data suggest that it is important for vendors to speak Spanish, which will likely increase sales. An important question is whether the direct-to- Hispanic consumer market is feasible, i.e., can farmers sell products profitably in this market and consumers find the prices acceptable. This paper indicates that the stated willingness-to- pay for whole/live tilapia was between $2-$3/lb, with 79 per cent of respondents preferring the price to be in that range. Williams and Dasgupta (2007) suggested a profitable price of $2/lb for whole tilapia. This suggests that selling tilapia directly from farms to Hispanic consumers is likely to be a feasible business scenario for aquaculture farms.

April 2011

the Fish Site Editor

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