Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic group. The Hispanic market accounted for $700 billion in consumer spending last year, which represents nearly 9 percent of the total U.S. disposable personal income (valued at $8.02 trillion), according to the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. Hispanic Americans' disposable income growing in 2003 at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.5 percent, it is outpacing the overall U.S. disposable income, which only grew 2.8 percent CAGR last year. By 2010, the consumer spending among the U.S. Hispanic population is expected to reach $1 trillion, according to Deborah Scruggs, product development manager at Chain Store Guide, a market research consultancy for the retail and foodservice industries.

Chain Store Guide is set to release its yearlong study on the Hispanic market. The report, dubbed 'The Top 50 Hispanic Markets Report: Your Retail & Foodservice Guide to Hispanic Marketing,' maintains it is not enough to identify members of this cohort merely as Hispanics. Instead, it aims to prove that sub-ethnic categories are forming, based largely on country of origin.

Country of origin plays a significant role in buying behavior among the Latin market. To help marketers create more relevant targeted marketing campaigns, the report provides a breakdown within the U.S. of Hispanics by country of origin. In the Atlanta metropolitan area, for example, Mexican Americans dominate the region's Hispanic market with 61 percent. In Boston, however, the leading sub-ethnic cohort comes from Puerto Rico, representing 28 percent of the city's overall Hispanic population. In Miami, Cuban-born Americans represent the largest sub-ethnic cohort with 44 percent of the city's overall Hispanic population, whereas Puerto Ricans represent only 9 percent.

Other research firms have recently released studies uncovering the diversity among the U.S. Hispanic market. And the findings have analysts in agreement. 'You hear the Hispanic market talked about as being one monolithic group of consumers, but it's actually a diverse group of consumers,' says Brad Fay, managing director of NOP World Consumer. (An NOP World Consumer survey released last month uncovers the health and dieting views of American-born versus foreign-born Hispanics.

The survey concludes that 60 percent of foreign-born Hispanics tend to be focused on nutrition and food ingredients, while U.S.-born Hispanics are more worried about lifestyle factors such as smoking and stress.)