Skip to main content

Island Pacific Supermarkets Joins Multicultural Retail 360’s Immersion Tour


Island Pacific Supermarkets’ National City location will be part of the Multicultural Retail 360 Summit’s Cultural Immersion Tour, one of the annual event’s most popular attractions.

The Filipino chain joins Vine Ripe, Vallarta Supermarkets and Northgate Gonzalez Markets, which have already committed. The hands-on educational Tour, which takes place August 24, marks the beginning of the three-day Summit in San Diego.

Island Pacific caters to the San Diego area’s Filipino population, which is one of the largest in the U.S. Vine Ripe specializes in Middle Eastern fare. Both Vallarta and Northgate target Mexican-Americans and are considered benchmarks in Hispanic food retailing.

Island Pacific Supermarkets offer a full range of perishable and shelf-stable foods popular among Filipinos along with traditional items prepared for takeout, as well as food courts. Founded in 2000, the company operates 19 stores, including 17 in California, one in Seattle and one in Las Vegas. In addition to targeting Filipinos, Island Pacific “aspires to promote Filipino cuisine to the rest of the world,” according to its website.

Despite having a much smaller footprint than competitor Seafood City, Filipinos give Island Pacific overwhelmingly positive ratings on Many of these reviewers are assimilated or second generation shoppers. The following description and review is from a recent Yelp user:

“Presyong Sulit!  A quaint, ethnic supermarket catering to all your Filipino needs. Weekly specials advertised in the Filipino newspapers keep customers coming. Whether it is fried tilapia, pompano, head-on shrimp or pork belly, many a meal has been made courtesy of Island Pacific. The butchers are quick with the complimentary cleaning, cutting and frying.

“Middle aisles have Filipino packaged goods, such as soup mixes, canned goods, noodles, jars of halo halo mixes etc. Various kakanin & merienda bites are available to purchase, including pan de sal, biscotti, puto and bibingka galapong.

Located close by, with the meat, seafood and produce I enjoy, there's no doubt I'll be back for more salty, oily, sugary, fatty goodness that is Filipino food.”

About California’s Filipinos

The first wave of Filipinos arrived to the U.S. in the 1960s. Today, San Diego County, along with Los Angeles, has one of the state’s largest Filipino populations. According to the Migration Policy Institute, 45 percent of all Filipino immigrants in the U.S. live in California, followed by Hawaii (just 6 percent), then New York, New Jersey, Illinois and Texas (1 percent for all four states combined).

Filipino cuisine, like Filipinos themselves, is a mix of several cultures. Dishes feature recipes, ingredient and cooking styles that trace their roots to Malay, Chinese, and Spanish cultures, among many others. This makes Filipino cuisine unique.

Vallarta ( Fifty-six percent of shoppers who frequent this location, also in National City, are Latino. But what makes this store unique is that 9 percent are African-American, a demographic that this nimble retailer has not failed to notice. The store opened in 2011.

In 1985, Vallarta was founded as a small meat store in Van Nuys, Calif., by Enrique Gonzalez, an immigrant from Jalostotitlan, Jalisco, Mexico. He was later joined by his four brothers, son and a nephew. Vallarta grew to include more locations throughout the San Fernando Valley. In 2011, Vallarta opened stores in National City as well as in Anaheim and Santa Maria. Today, there are 48 stores. Later this year, they will be joined by a new location, the third in the Fresno market.

While it is not the lowest priced retailer, Vallarta is known for its hands-on customer service. The motto in its full-service butcher shop is, “Corte al gusto” (cut to your preference). The seafood department is well known for its fish ceviche, shrimp ceviche, imitation crab ceviche, seafood mix ceviche and “camarones ahogados.” All ceviches are made daily on site. There is also shrimp from Mexico and Ecuador, salmon from Chile and red snapper from Brazil.

Two unique parts of Vallarta’s product mix are its liquor and “La Isla” departments.

The spirits section has one of the largest tequila selections in the U.S. The department also offers wide assortments of whiskey, cognac, brandy, vodka and rum. Vallarta’s distributors specialize in spirits from Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean and other parts of the world.

La Isla (“The Island”) features juices made fresh on the spot along with “aguas frescas.” Both are made with all natural ingredients. Other items in La Isla include fruit and vegetable smoothies, snow cones, iced coffee, fruit cocktails and salads. Champurrado, cafe de olla and cappuccino are among hot beverage offerings.

There are also comprehensive produce and tortilla departments along with an in-store bakery, deli and cremería. Private label merchandise is offered in several categories, including bread, tortillas, chips, rice and tostadas.

“We’re happy to open our doors to everyone attending the Multicultural 360 Conference in beautiful San Diego,” said Rick Castillo, Vallarta’s director of marketing. “Our goal is to constantly strive to meet the needs of our ever changing customer base. Any insights gained by conference attendees visiting our store in National City will be regarded as a compliment that we are doing things right. Bienvenidos!”

The visit to Vine Ripe Farmer’s Market in La Mesa, Calif., marks the first time a Middle Eastern supermarket has participated in the Tour. This is notable, since California is home to more than 715,000 Arab-Americans, who reside in large communities in Alameda, Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Orange, San Bernardino and San Diego.

About 500,000 Iranian-Americans live in Southern California, in such communities as Beverly Hills, Orange County, San Diego, the Palm Springs area, and the San Joaquin Valley. San Diego also has one of the largest populations of Chaldean immigrants in the United States.

Vine Ripe’s Middle Eastern and Mediterranean offerings include grocery and deli products, organic produce, Halal foods and a selection of staple American products. The dairy department includes favorites like paneer, sweet cheese, imported cheese, labne, kefir and a number of yogurt drinks. Also tempting the palette are a wide assortment of Turkish baked goods and a salad bar offering everyday items along with favorites like tabbouleh, tzatziki, baba ghanoush, hummus and dolma. Recently, Vine Ripe added a made-to-order fresh juice bar. This will soon be joined by a wine room.

Northgate Gonzalez Markets was founded in Anaheim, Calif., in January 1980 by a large immigrant family. Targeting consumers of all assimilation levels, offerings include bulk and packaged produce, on-site, hand-made tortillas, a cut-to-order butcher and on-site bakery. Northgate, which is participating in the Tour for the second consecutive year, will showcase one of its larger format San Diego locations.

“Northgate Gonzalez Market looks forward to another year of participating in the Multicultural Retail 360 Show,” said Mike Hendry, Northgate’s executive vice president of marketing and merchandising. “In this larger format store, you will find everything from fresh, authentically prepared foods from Mexico and Latin America to one of the widest varieties of fresh meat and seafood in the county. Bring your wallet as you’ll be sure to find a new salsa or tequila – we offer one of the widest selections in Southern California!”

Northgate also offers financial and other services, including check cashing, bill payment and personal loans. Many customers do not have bank accounts. On the health and wellness front, its Viva la Salud (“Living Healthy”) initiative provides bi-lingual product labels detailing nutritional benefits. Easy-to-read graphics make labels more understandable to shoppers with low English comprehension and/or limited formal education.

Editor’s Note: Special thanks to the Unified Grocers team for all their hard work in helping us create a must-see educational retail lineup for August 2016’s Cultural Immersion Tour.

¡Bienvenidos a nuestras gira!

About the Cultural Immersion Tour: The Tour involves in-person visits via chartered bus to the chains mentioned above. While the Multicultural Retail 360 Summit itself provides case studies, valuable data and insights from leading companies and executives, this guided Cultural Immersion Tour allows guests to experience ethnic neighborhoods, retailers and customers on a first hand basis. In addition to unique product selections, it exposes visitors to shopping habits, consumer expectations, socio economic factors and merchandising strategies inherent to particular cultures.

Please note there is a separate registration fee for the Cultural Immersion Tour. You may register for the Tour at the same time that you register for the conference at

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds