| Small pastries appeal to customers seeking a variety of desserts for guests and to those looking to sample unfamiliar products. |
Publix opened its first Publix Sabor in Kissimmee, Fla., a suburb of Orlando, last spring. Since then, it has converted another Publix store in Hialeah, Fla., north of Miami to its Sabor format and recently announced plans for two more in 2006 also in the Miami area. One will be a conversion store and the other is new construction.
“Publix Sabor serves all customers, but with a focus on Hispanic and Caribbean products,” says 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,” Brous says. “You want to come in, and you want to smell all those different aromas going on. It wouldn’t be the same and the total store would not be successful without the bakery.”
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 says.
Eldana has been with Publix for seven years and has more than 10 years of baking experience in both Cuba and Venezuela. He is the force behind Publix Sabor’s extensive product line, from tarts and individual pastries to breads and gourmet cakes. Eldana also helped develop a reference and procedure manual to allow other stores to produce the same products.
He says 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.
| Publix Sabor’s dulce leche (sweet milk) torte is one of its top-selling cakes. |
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 in-store bakeries this year.
“We’re finding the niche markets, and we’re going after those consumers,” Brous says.
Great market potential
The Hispanic market is a pretty big niche. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population in the United States increased by more than 50 percent from 1990 to 2000. In addition, more than 90 percent of Hialeah’s population 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 United States 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,” says 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.
| The open-production bakery reenforces Publix fresh in-store image. |
Publix Sabor’s cake decorating department supplies big demand for parties as well. Cake decorators prepare cakes in view of customers and are available throughout the day for custom orders and last minute personalized piping if requested. Customers order decorated cakes for many family celebrations, particularly sweet 15 celebrations, or la quinceñeras. Often as elaborate as some wedding cakes, la quincñara cakes are typically tiered cakes decorated with rolled fondant icing.
Decorated and gourmet dessert cakes are produced in-store 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 says.
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 walk-up window for customers to order their coffees and pastries outside.
| Ricardo Eldana (left) and Claudia Camenzuli develop the product mix for Publix Sabor. |
The Hialeah Publix Sabor has double staff to support its large product line both in production and sales. The in-store staffs its bakery throughout the day with prime time during the evening shift after 4 p.m.
“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 trainable people to work in its bakeries. Future Publix Sabor in-store bakeries may not be as large as the Hialeah store, but in-store baking will remain a critical element to the niche format.
“The bakery is so much a part of being truly authentic,” adds Brous. “The main reason Publix opened bakeries in the first place was to draw customers with fresh, quality baking.”
| Customers enter the store to a bread display, featuring French baguettes and Cuban breads and rolls. |
Parent company : Publix Super Markets
Headquarters: Lakeland, Fla.
Number of stores/bakeries: 2/2 Publix Sabor, 874/874 Publix Super Markets
Management: Claudia Camenzuli, retail improvement specialist, bakery; Ricardo Eldana, 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 and frozen dough; some pies and other products supplied by Publix central bakery
Plans: open two more Publix Sabors in 2006, one will be a conversion store and the other is new construction
Publix Sabor. . .a sampling of prices
English muffin bread, 1 lb. $2.29
Italian sandwich bread, 1 lb. $1.79
Cuban bread, 10 ozs. $0.89
Crème horn $1.50
Napoleon, single serving $1.29
Cappuccino torte, 8-in round $17.99
Dulce leche torte, 8-in. round $17.99
8-in. round $16.00
1/4 sheet cake $16.99
1/2 sheet cake $39.99
Blueberry muffins, 4 ct. $2.19