By now we’ve all heard plenty about the sweeping demographic shifts in the United States over the past generation, led primarily by the continued growth of the Hispanic population, the second-largest ethnic group in the United States.

Latinos — with a population that reached a record 58.6 million in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau — are playing a larger role in the nation’s culture, politics and economy. And they’re increasingly reshaping American beer sales and the marketing strategies of brewers, which see plenty of opportunity to reach a group of drinkers that continues to grow.

Nowhere, perhaps, is the battle to recruit these drinkers more evident than around holidays that many Americans haven’t traditionally viewed as big beer-drinking occasions, such as Easter, Father’s Day and Day of the Dead.

While Mexican brands — including MillerCoors import Sol — long have been competing in this arena, leading domestic brands fighting for growth see an opportunity to connect with Latino drinkers on these occasions. MillerCoors, through some of its largest brands such as Miller Lite and Coors Light, is beginning to put more marketing muscle behind these holidays.

“These are holidays around which Hispanic grocery sees a large lift in areas with a large percentage of Latinos, such as Texas and California,” says Courtney Bryant, senior marketing manager for Miller Lite. “Our strategy is to bring Miller Lite to life as part of these celebrations of family and close friends.”

Beer is part of the culture

In most Latin American countries, beer is the alcohol beverage of choice among legal-age drinkers. Mexico, in particular, has a strong beer culture in which the beverage plays an important role in gatherings of all types.

That carries through in the U.S., including among Latinos who either came of age or were born in the U.S., says Angela Rodriguez, vice president of strategic insights at Alma, a creative agency that works with MillerCoors on brands such as Sol and Miller Lite. “Drinking beer with the family is part of our tradition. And since we have family gatherings more often and with more people, we drink more beer,” she says. Those traditions are amplified during special celebrations, such as birthdays or holidays.

“For a holiday like Easter Sunday, it’s not just your immediate family that stops by and has a glass of wine with brunch,” Rodriguez says. “For Latino families, you have a beer or two with your dad and your uncle and your family friend who everyone calls your uncle. It easily can be a 40-person event. And the party doesn’t start at 2 p.m. and end at 4 p.m. It starts at 2 p.m. and goes on for a few hours.”

The same goes for Father’s Day, Day of the Dead and the traditional Latino holiday celebrations called “Posadas.”

Fertile ground for light beer

That shines through in consumer data.

Hispanic beer drinkers spend a higher percentage of their alcohol beverage dollars on beer than any other ethnic group at 45%, according to Nielsen data. And that’s no small potatoes, considering Hispanics spent $21.8 billion on alcohol beverages in 2017, up 26% from 2012, per a recent report from the market research firm Mintel.

Perhaps even more important: While Latinos still buy Mexican imports, they overindex in premium lights, which account for 28% of the beer volume Latinos purchase, according to Nielsen data.

Why? Because premium lights, such as Coors Light, Miller Lite and Bud Light fit in with occasions that often involve protracted get-togethers that span several hours and call for lighter-bodied, lower-ABV beers.

That’s why those brands are making more overt efforts to target and capture these consumers. Both Miller Lite and Coors Light have developed specialized, targeted marketing campaigns that seek to connect with those drinkers not just in language, but in culture.

Miller Lite debuted its first substantial foray into this style of marketing last fall, with the debut of a targeted TV spot focused on Posadas. It plans additional TV work this year, experience-based marketing as well as new digital, social, out-of-home and point-of-sale advertising aimed specifically at Latinos.

Coors Light, meanwhile, also is releasing a new batch of TV spots. “This goes beyond translating our English ads into Spanish,” says Ryan Reis, vice president of the Coors family of brands. “For the first time in several years, Coors Light will have Latino-specific TV spots and retail point-of-sale materials that feature occasions like watching soccer with friends.”

The brand is increasing its Latino marketing investment by 20% in 2019, which will go toward beefing up retail and point-of-sale marketing tools focused on cold refreshment. It also is releasing Latino-specific TV spots.

“It makes sense to try to be top-of-mind for people as they think about and plan get-togethers,” Rodriguez says. “Especially with holidays and other celebrations, people aren’t bringing over a six-pack of something they want to drink. They’re bringing a 12-pack or a 24-pack of something they think everyone will enjoy.”

That’s often a light lager.