"Latinos today represent half a trillion dollars in purchasing power," says Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected Officials.
Vargas tells CBS News Correspondent Bill Whitaker businesses can't afford to ignore it.
"Well, if you don't go after this market you're missing the boat and you're missing the future of this country," he says.
Some, like Honda, saw the wave coming.
"Since we launched our Hispanic efforts in 1989, our sales to Hispanics have grown 188 percent," says Barbara Ponce, who manages the company's advertising for emerging markets.
Honda's efforts have made the Civic, "the best selling passenger car to the Latino customer," says Ponce.
But the exploding Hispanic market seems to have caught many other businesses by surprise.
Hector Orci, who runs one of the country's top Latino ad agencies, La Agencia Advertising Co., says the Hispanic market has been ignored by many businesses.
Orci says until recently, fewer than 50 of the Fortune 500 made any effort to capture Latino consumers.
"You have a lot more right now because we get the calls that are seriously exploring the market," Orci says.
The census was a wake up call. The Latino population is surging everywhere, from 23 percent in Wyoming to almost 400 percent in North Carolina. Companies are trying to figure out how to reach the diverse population from different countries - even speaking different languages in one family.
Louis Barajas has one such family.
"You're going to reach my parents through Spanish television," he says.
For the children of the house, "it's going to be English television for them. You're going to reach me through a little bit of both."
And that's exactly what more and more companies are doing, seeking a Latin edge in this sluggish economy.
Instead of closing three under-performing California stores, grocery giant Albertsons revamped them to target growing Latin tastes. The results?
"Double digit sales increases, nice increase in customer count," says Albertsons' Southern California division president Dave Simonson. "Our intent is to take this where we can nationwide."
"Smart businesses who want to succeed will understand that the consumer is changing, that they need to cater to Latinos," says Vargas.
Smart businesses are slowly realizing the largest Latino market in the world now is right here in the U.S.