Following a Hispanic cultural tradition US Hispanics have their largest meal of the day at lunch and consume more of these meals in the home than away-from-home. As a result, this large population group is influencing overall growth in the food categories they typically consume at lunch, reports The NPD Group, a leading global information company.

Seventy-three percent of US Hispanics’ lunch meals are prepared and consumed in-home compared to 62 percent of non-Hispanics, according to NPD’s NET (National Eating Trends) Hispanic, which is a year-long study of US Hispanics’ eating behaviors. Spanish-language dominant US Hispanics represent just 29% of total lunch traffic at restaurants compared to 34% for non-Hispanics, and total Hispanics represent 32% of foodservice lunch visits, according to NPD CREST Hispanic, which continually tracks how US Hispanics, by level of acculturation, use restaurants

With lunch being the largest meal of the day for US Hispanics, there is a greater diversity of foods prepared by Hispanics compared to non-Hispanics. For example, while sandwiches are the top items for Hispanics, they are only present at 18% of afternoon meals (38% for non-Hispanics), finds NPD. Sandwiches are very closely followed by soup and rice as top dishes during the afternoon meal. In fact, 13% of Hispanics’ afternoon meals include rice, compared to just one percent for non-Hispanics. There is also evidence that many of these rice dishes are either homemade or partly homemade, as they are often prepared using cooking oils and spices as opposed to heat-and-eat or pre-flavored offerings.

Rice is an example of US Hispanics’ rising influence on overall consumption trends. Rice is included in about 2% of in-home meals across the US population, according to NPD’s National Eating Trends (NET) information. However, NET Hispanic shows rice consumption rises to 8% when looking specifically at the US Hispanic population.

“As Hispanics become an even greater influence on our culture and society, marketers would be wise to engage them in a manner that reflects their behaviors,” says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst. “For example, rice is currently thought of as a dinnertime item, but perhaps it’s time to rethink this given the ways it is consumed among Hispanics.”