As more brands increase their marketing efforts to appeal to the growing Hispanic population, new research from The NPD Group shows a discrepancy in how that demographic perceives healthier fare.

NPD's "It's Mealtime with U.S. Hispanics" report shows that U.S. Hispanics, particularly those foreign-born and Spanish-language dominant, claim to know more about nutrition than most people, but define nutrition in terms of quality as well as quantity.

Filling a plate conveys that a person "eats well" and a nutritious meal was served, which is a symbol of good health among Spanish-language dominant and foreign-born U.S. Hispanics, according to the study.

U.S. Hispanics' pride in their cooking, emphasis on traditional flavors and ensuring the food they feed their families is nutritious, shapes perceptions that healthy foods aren't as tasty or as nutritious. Forty-six percent of Spanish-language dominant Hispanics said that almost everything that is very good for you doesn't taste very good.

However, proportions change as Hispanics acculturate. For example, 31 percent of bilingual Hispanics and only 11 percent of English-dominant Hispanics agree.

"Food and beverages play a central role in the preservation of Hispanic culture and reconnection for family; as a result, Hispanics view mealtime, nutrition and healthy eating differently than non-Hispanics," said Terry Soto, president and CEO of About Marketing Solutions Inc., who consulted with NPD on the development of the report. "Going for seconds is encouraged and welcomed, and conveys that a person 'eats well' and has a good appetite, which is a symbol of good health."

The NPD report, which includes information from NET Hispanic, a year-long study on the eating behaviors of U.S. Hispanics by level of acculturation, finds that the effect of Hispanics' attitudes about nutrition and healthy eating are reflected in weight and health issues, particularly among Spanish-dominant U.S. Hispanics.

"With weight conditions and diet-related health issues prominent among U.S. Hispanics, there is an opportunity for manufacturers and retailers to position products for how Hispanics actually eat and to align with their attitudes about healthy eating," said Darren Seifer, NPD food and beverage industry analyst and author of the report. "Bilingual nutritional information on products and in-store will help, but it's also important to keep in mind less-acculturated Hispanics' attitudes that healthy isn't tasty or in some cases as nutritious."

Read more about trends and statistics.

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