Growth of the U.S. Hispanic population -- combined with their adherence to dining traditions -- is beginning to influence national consumption patterns.

That's a conclusion fromThe NPD Group, Chicago, which says it just completed a year-long study that captures the in-home and away-from-home food and beverage consumption habits of Hispanics in the U.S. by level of acculturation. Study authors note that Hispanics now comprise 16 percent of the U.S. population and the U.S. Census indicates the U.S. Hispanic population is expected to grow 34 percent from 2010 to 2020.

One of the categories where Hispanics are influencing consumption patterns is atbreakfast, according to NPD’s NET® (National Eating Trends®) Hispanic. Authors said that while non-Hispanics include non-toasted bread in two percent of their breakfast meals, 12 percent of Hispanics' breakfasts include non-toasted bread. Over the last decade, typical consumers decreased the number of times they include non-toasted bread with their breakfasts. NPD’s National Eating Trends® (NET®) shows that for the two years ending February 2001, the average American had 48 eatings of non-toasted bread at breakfast, which declined to 41 eatings for the two years ending February 2011.

While non-toasted bread appears to be the breakfast carbohydrate of choice in Hispanic homes, other breakfast options are consumed less often compared to non-Hispanics’ consumption. For example, hot cereal has a 10 percent share of non-Hispanic breakfast eatings, while that number for Hispanics is only 6 percent. Eggs are found more often on the table during breakfast in Hispanic homes than in non-Hispanic homes in the U.S.

“This shift could bode well for bread makers and bakery departments, and they should make efforts to connect with Hispanics sooner rather than later,” says Darren Seifer, food and beverage industry analyst at NPD. “On the flip side, hot cereal marketers will need to appeal to this group in ways that differ from traditional efforts. For example, the warmth and convenience of hot cereal could be important aspects to highlight, as Hispanics are already consuming warm breakfasts at above average rates.”

Dinner meal side dishesare another category that is being influenced by Hispanic consumption behavior, according to NET Hispanic. Hispanics eat rice more often at lunch and dinner compared to non-Hispanics; and in a time when side dish consumption has been declining across all major categories, both plain and flavored rice are being included in more meals as a side dish among the overall population.

Dining traditions play an important role in U.S. Hispanics’ eating behaviors. When asked to describe how frequently Latino/Hispanic traditions are followed in their homes, 96 percent of Hispanic respondents indicated these traditions are followed always/often/sometimes when planning and serving meals for the household. In addition, dining traditions vary among each Hispanic group, for example, Cuban-Americans differ from Mexican-Americans in their eating patterns.

“There’s no doubt about it - Hispanics are a large and quickly growing group, and they will likely move the needle on national consumption trends over the next 10 years,” says Seifer. “Marketers who wish to stay ahead of this growth should invest in understanding not only U.S. Hispanics’ behaviors, but also the traditions they honor at the dining table.”