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Nielsen North America is joining forces with research firm Hispanic Market Connections to track the grocery store purchases of several thousand Hispanic homes.

Slated to begin in 1995, the Nielsen Hispanic Panel will join the 47,000 homes currently using the company's hand-held scanners to record purchases.

Current efforts to survey Hispanic buying patterns are limited to questionnaires, often an obstacle for consumers who don't speak English, said Marilyn Mitchell, VP at Hispanic Market Connections, Los Altos, Calif.

As a result, little is known about this important segment's purchas- ing patterns.

Nielsen and Hispanic Market Connections intend to recruit 1,000 to 1,500 households in each of three to six urban markets, beginning in Los Angeles.

Like any new immigrant population, Hispanic households tend to be younger, Ms. Mitchell said. Marketers of products from diapers to cookies and crackers to children's clothes will find the data particularly valuable, she added.

Like Nielsen's current household panel, the Hispanic group will correlate purchases with media usage, giving marketers insight into the effectiveness of advertising and promotion, said Robert Tomei, VP-product manager for Nielsen Consumer Information Services.

In addition to Los Angeles, marketers are particularly interested in Miami, Houston, Chicago and New York, Ms. Mitchell said. "There's a lot of difference in selling to Cubans in Miami, Mexicans in L.A. and Puerto Ricans and Dominicans in New York."

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