Byline: By Tim Gaynor Special Correspondent
An unusual mixture of sweet clam broth and thick tomato juice, Clamato was for years a difficult-to-market drink that had failed to connect with a mainstream US market.
But then Cadbury Schweppes took a gamble and reached out to a core group of loyal Hispanic consumers, for whom it was a versatile cocktail mixer, a late afternoon pick-me-up, and a key ingredient for cooking up sea food.
The result? After hiring a Hispanic marketing director and a team of nine field marketing managers to pitch Clamato to Latinos, overall sales ticked up by double digits in each of the past five years. The director, Omar Garcia, has since left the company, but the success continues.
Cadbury Schweppes is among a growing number of companies scrambling to hire Hispanic executives to connect with the United States' fastest growing minority, which has an increasingly hefty economic clout.
"Tapping into that Hispanic market has transformed the brand, but doing that required insight," said Georg Rasinski, brand manager for Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages.
"The Hispanic marketing teams have proved crucial as they had the knowledge and understanding to make Clamato fly."
The US Census bureau tipped the Hispanic population to reach 49 million by the end of the decade, and researchers say Latino purchasing power, currently $700 billion (pounds 368.5 billion) a year, will reach $1 trillion (pounds 526.5 billion) by 2009.
Headhunters and Latino business leaders say the battle to recruit Hispanic executives and managers has stepped up pace in the past year as firms from banks to retailers are competing hard to tap into the tastes and trends of Hispanic consumers.
Their insights are helping companies to market a diverse range of products from soft drinks and specialty paint ranges, to banking and consumer credit products tailored to the needs of the Hispanic community.
Home Depot, the world's largest home improvement company, created a special line of paints for Hispanic customers last year, with the help of a Hispanic marketing team.
An offwhite colour in the range is named horchata, for a popular Mexican rice drink, and hunter green is renamed Verde Amazonas. Sales have been extended from pilot stores to all 1,839 stores nationwide.
Recruiters say they are also increasingly looking to sign up Hispanic human resources and personnel managers with the language and people skills to supervise a growing Latino workforce in stores, the hotel industry and customer call centres nationwide.
"Corporate America has realized that we are the fastest growing demographic, and they are trying to catch up," said Michael Barrera, the president and chief executive of the US Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
"They are thinking not just about the next quarter, but about the next quarter century," he added.
To find the talent, recruiters are combing Hispanic job board websites and attending graduate fairs, offering the right candidates packages including five-figure sign-on deals, share options and salaries up to 30 per cent over market rates. …