publix sabor instores uncover broad audience

Competitive Watch: Publix Super Markets’ new store format is targeted to Hispanics, but its bakeries’ top quality products and extensive selection bring fans from beyond their niche.

By narrowing its focus, Publix Super Markets (Lakeland, Fla.) found its demandactually grew. Its new Hispanic format, Publix Sabor, demonstrates that consumerpreference for fresh, quality foods, particularly in a bakery, can target alldemographics. Publix opened its first Publix Sabor in Kissimmee, Fla., a suburbof Orlando, last spring. Since then, it has converted another Publix store inHialeah, Fla., north of Miami, to its Sabor format and recently announced plansfor two more in 2006, also in the Miami area. One will be a conversion storeand the other is new construction.

“Publix Sabor serves all customers, but with a focus on Hispanic and Caribbean products,” said Maria Brous, Publix director of media and community relations. That focus is evident when customers walk into the 61,000-sq. ft. Publix Sabor store in Hialeah. Customers do not need to speak Spanish (although it helps) to appreciate the quantity, quality and variety of foods available at Publix Sabor. And, bakery truly is central to Publix Sabor’s mission.

Bakery Core Business
“Our bakeries are a big part of our business,” Broussaid. “You want to come in and smell all those different aromas going on. Itwouldn’t be the same and the total store would not be successful without thebakery.”

The 2,700-sq. ft. in-store bakery buzzes with activity, often staffing ten employees at a time creating product using primarily scratch/mix production. Lead by Head Baker Ricardo Eldana, Publix Sabor offers a full line of products with an emphasis on individual pastries.

“We offer more than 100 fresh pastries daily,” Brous said.

Eldana has been with Publix for seven years and has more than 10 years of bakingexperience in both Cuba and Venezuela. He is the force behind Publix Sabor’sextensive product line, from tarts and individual pastries to breads and gourmetcakes. Eldana also helped develop a reference and procedure manual to allowother stores to produce the same products.

He said his customers comment most often on Publix Sabor’s variety in the bakery. Selling smaller individual pastries encourages customers unfamiliar with Cuban and Caribbean bakery products to try them. The bakery also offers a broad selection of traditional “American” fare as well. Donuts and cookies, for example, cross all borders.

Although Publix is a chain of more than 800 stores primarily in Florida and surrounding states, it has a reputation for being a leader in targeting its supermarkets for their neighborhoods. Its in-store bakery departments lead the charge in knowing each store’s customer preferences. “Every bakery is a little bit different,” Brous said. “There’s no rugalach here, but maybe in other stores.”

Publix also recently segued into the natural foods market with another niche-store format called Publix GreenWise. The company plans to open two GreenWise stores with instore bakeries this year.

“We’re finding the niche markets, and we’re going after those consumers,” Broussaid.

Great Market Potential
The Hispanic market is a pretty big niche. Accordingto the United States Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in the U.S. increasedby more than 50% from 1990 to 2000. In addition, more than 90% of Hialeah’spopulation is Hispanic.

The Hispanic market presents a massive sales opportunity for retailers, but reaching the segments within that market is not so straightforward. Obviously, the Hispanic population is made up of immigrants from different Spanish-speaking countries with different taste preferences. Publix Sabor’s bakeries, for example, cater more to the Miami area’s Cuban population with a preference for breads, not tortillas. Also, age and number of family generations in the U.S. can factor into taste preferences in the bakery.

That being said, Publix Sabor bakeries find a few guidelines that apply in its Miami markets. The bakeries package and merchandise products tailored for large family celebrations. Specific flavors and ingredients, particularly in the fruit category, also are more popular than others.

“Guava is the main ingredient in the area,” said Claudia Camenzuli, Publix bakery retail improvement specialist. She oversees in-store bakeries in the area. Nearly every pastry with a fruit filling in Publix Sabor is available in a guava version.

Another part of the bakery, which Camenzuli said also is a Hispanic tradition, is ice cream. Publix Sabor’s bakery offers ice cream in a variety of tropical-fruit flavors and always-popular chocolate and vanilla variations. Ice cream and piÒatas (which hang from the ceiling above the bakery) help position the bakery as a one-stop shop for parties and family celebrations.

Publix Sabor’s cake decorating department supplies big demand for parties aswell. Cake decorators prepare cakes in view of customers and are available throughoutthe day for custom orders and last-minute personalized piping if requested.Customers order decorated cakes for many family celebrations, particularly sweet15 celebrations, or la quinceÒeras. Often as elaborate as some weddingcakes, la quincÒara cakes are typically tiered cakes decorated with rolledfondant icing.

Decorated and gourmet dessert cakes are produced instore using a mix and Publix proprietary scratch buttercream. Some products, such as products available throughout the Publix chain, are produced in central bakery plants. Publix pie plant bakes Key lime pies for distribution to most Publix stores, for example. Preparing basic products in off-premise bakery plants allows the in-store bakeries to focus on products more specific to their markets.

Publix Sabor offers a full line of breads as well, including Cuban bread and European-style crusty breads. Like the rest of the bakery, variety is the focus in the bread department. The bakery even offers challah and pumpernickel breads. Cuban bread, a crusty roll made with lard, and panecillos media noche, or midnight rolls, are some of its top-selling varieties. The classic Cuban sandwich includes pork, ham, Swiss cheese and pickles on Cuban bread, often grilled. Similar to a hoagie bun, media noche bread is typically used for ham and cheese sandwiches.

“It is supposed to be for a snack before we go to bed, so we can sleep on a full stomach,” Camenzuli said.

The bakery also sells its Cuban and media noche breads to the deli for use in the traditional sandwiches. Pastries from the bakery are also available at the coffee bar, which has a walkup window for customers to order their coffees and pastries outside.

“We provide a lot of places to offer customers bakery products,” Brous said.

The Hialeah Publix Sabor has double staff to support its large product lineboth in production and sales. The store staffs its bakery throughout the day,with prime time after 4 p.m. during the evening shift.

“This store is very busy with associates tending to customers and making product,” Camenzuli says. Having bakery staff work with both products and customers helps associates understand the products better, she says. Publix also has a formal training program to help train new bakery associates and encourage suggestive selling.

Bakery management says it has little trouble finding skilled and/or trainablepeople to work in its bakeries. Future Publix Sabor in-store bakeries may notbe as large as the Hialeah store, but in-store baking will remain a criticalelement to the niche format.

“The bakery is so much a part of being truly authentic,” added Brous. “Themain reason Publix opened bakeries was to draw customers with fresh, qualitybaking.”

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At a Glance

Parent Company:
Publix Super Markets
Headquarters:
Lakeland, Fla.
Number of stores/bakeries:
2/2 Publix Sabor, 874/874 Publix Supermarkets, 7 PIX convenience stores
Management:
Claudia Camenzuli, retail improvement specialist, bakery; RicardoEldana, head baker (Hialeah store); Raudelin Herrera, bakery manager (Hialeah);Adolfo Amador, assistant bakery manager (Hialeah)
Production methods:
Cakes, scratch/mix; pastries, scratch/mix; breads, scratch/mix andfrozen dough; some pies and other products supplied by Publix centralbakery
Plans:
Open two more Publix Sabors in 2006, one will be a conversion storeand the other is new construction

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