(June 24) Everywhere you look, marketers are starting to wake up to the virtually untapped Hispanic market in the U.S., which will become less and less of a minority.

The 37 million Latino U.S. residents — that’s not counting the hordes of migrants and illegals — constitute about $580 billion in buying power, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Selig Center for Economic Growth, a part of the University of Georgia.

The produce industry is finding ways to tap into that growth potential, too. Helping matters is Spanish language point-of-sale materials from groups like Pear Bureau Northwest, Milwaukie, Ore., and the North American Blueberry Council, El Dorado Hills, Calif.

Increasingly, Hispanic consumers can see such POS at retail stores like Gigante Stores USA, Los Angeles, and the Super Savers format from Albertsons Inc., Boise, Idaho, both of which have a strong toehold in the Southern California market.

Occasionally, you’ll see Hispanic-themed marketing at select locations of a few mainstream retailers.

Even individual produce companies see possibilities. With a licensing agreement to use the colorful Los Kitos cartoon characters, Crown Jewels Marketing and Distribution LLC will make its products synonymous with the comic strip that runs in 372 newspapers worldwide.

By putting the characters on its strawberries, stone fruit, apples and pears, the Fresno, Calif., firm aims to connect with Hispanic youths — and their pocketbook-wielding parents.

That’s a smart move as Hispanics, particularly Mexican-Americans who are relatively new to this nation, tend to turn grocery shopping into a family event.

And while many might think these consumers turn to ethnic markets, the fact is that 76% shop at a major chain, according to The Packer’s new research on Mexican-American consumer habits.

In July, in a four-part series, The Packer will unveil more results from its first supplemental Fresh Trends research. The following are a few findings:

  • Nearly three-quarters of Mexican-American consumers shop for groceries at least once a week, and 25% shop at least every two to three days.

  • Only 10% regularly go to Hispanic/specialty stores.

  • Tastes are broadening, as 39% are preparing less Mexican food at home than they did a year ago.

  • Seasonality seems to be more important to Mexican-Americans in Houston, where 44% percent rated that as a reason to shop for a particular item, versus just 33% in Los Angeles and 32% in Chicago.

So pump up the marketing. Turn those basket-size displays of jalapenos, tomatillos, plantains, jicama, limes and other Hispanic items into full-blown, end-of-the-aisle attention getters. There’s a sale to be made.