No doubt you've heard that it's important to market to the Latino consumer. Decades of U.S. Census Bureau data and projections confirm that the Hispanic/Latino segment is one of the most dynamic and rapidly growing groups in the country.

"With a collective buying power exceeding $1 trillion in 2010 (projected to grow to $1.5 trillion by 2015), the ability to connect with Latino consumers in relevant ways is vital to future prosperity," says a new report by The Hartman Group, The Multi-Cultural Latino Consumer. 

Marketers are clamoring for their attention, but it's not always simple to understand such a diverse group. The Latino population in America represents several distinct cultures, with different groups of Latinos identifying themselves as Puerto Rican or Mexican or Cuban or as members of particular Central and South American regions. In short, it's a language-centric multi-cultural group within the larger melting pot of the nation.

The Hartman report delves into three cultural influences: Country of Origin, Country of Residence and Globalization. How these factors "shape perspectives on lifestyle and identity, and thus, consumers' purchasing decisions, product usage and shopping behaviors" is the goal of the report, which addresses such questions as: How do manufacturers develop products that resonate with Latino consumers? How do marketers effectively communicate with Latinos? Are you speaking their language? Do you really understand the culture and market to them as distinct from other large demographic segments? What do you need to know about these most influential consumers?

Through the lense of "multi-cultural influences," the report uncovered these key characteristics about today's Latino customer:

Food Culture. Three areas reveal culture differences between Latinos and non-Latinos: fresh foods, eating occasions and social eating. 82 percent of Latinos will seek out fresh food. Latinos value the midday meal (comida) more than dinner. Latinos are more likely to be eating socially with family and friends than any other group.

Health and Wellness. Latinos are very aware of their health in that they are concerned about weight control, anxiety/stress, pain or cardiovascular issues, more so than the general population.

Sustainability. The majority of Latinos (64 percent) consider concerns for the environment when making purchase decisions.

Shopping. Latinos are very comfortable with American brands and retailers, but also frequently visit their local shop for specialty Latino items.

For more in-depth information, find out how to download the report here.