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Mexican fast food chains targeting USA's steadily expanding Hispanic marketplace. (Focus on Latin America).

At a time when political activists in some countries are demonstrating against McDonald's and Starbucks as agents of globalization and US cultural imperialism, the United States itself is about to be invaded by a bunch of Mexican fast food chains offering everything from tacos to sushi.

But aren't there already Mexican food chains like Taco Bell, some Americans are bound to wonder? The thing is, Mexican operators like Taco Inn, Coco Express, El Fogoncito and El Tizoncito aren't necessarily going after so-called "mainstream" Americans. They're catering to the 21.6 million US Hispanics of Mexican origin, whose buying power is expected to reach $926 billion by 2007.

These are people eager to buy gorditas, whereas a lot of Anglos may not even know what gorditas are. Gorditas Dona Tota already has an outlet in the small hamlet of Hidalgo, Texas, but is looking for franchises in major cities like Houston, Chicago and Los Angeles by next year. Sushi Itto--yes, there's a Mexican chain devoted to sushi--has a couple of locations in San Diego.

It's not just the Mexican outfits, either. Pollo Campero, a fast food chicken chain out of Guatemala, opened its first branch in Houston last December and is said to be doing well. Habib's, which is based in Brazil but specializes in Arab-style fare like hummus, hopes to make its debut in the US next year after having established a beachhead in Mexico three years ago.

Then there's Coco Express, which is also based in Brazil but has some 200 locations in shopping malls and Wal-Mart stores across Mexico selling coconut-based drinks. Now its sites are set on El Norte. "We think the market could be very positive in the US, especially in the hotter regions like Texas, California and Hawaii," opined Lorena Rodriguez, who runs the chain's Mexican franchising operation out of Guadalajara.

Where do these fast food chains come from? The same kind of success stories as McDonald's and Wendy's. Gorditas Dona Tota, for example, began with a pushcart in Ciudad Victoria, Tamaulipas, where in 1952 Carlota Murillo began selling the Mexican pastries stuffed with her homemade stews. Fifty years later, the chain has 100 outlets in 40 Mexican cities, with gorditas ranging from plain ground beef stew and beans & cheese to pork in mole, Yucatan-style chicken and prickly ear stew.

It was the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City that got El Fogoncito started. Tacos al pastor became the in thing throughout the southern part of the city and especially along Avenida Revolucion, where Martha Avalos Rocha opened the first Taqueria under the El Fogoncito banner in August of that year.
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Comment:Mexican fast food chains targeting USA's steadily expanding Hispanic marketplace. (Focus on Latin America).
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Jul 1, 2003
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