Carnival Super Markets offer customers fresh tortillas produced in-store in front of customers.
An 18-ft.-long self-service "bun run" diplays 20 varieties of Mexican and Central American rolls and sweat breads.
Bakers prepare empanadas with scratch-made doughs; other products use frozen doughs based on Mexican recipes.
Any supermarket operator battling for market share in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex will tell you it’s one of the most highly competitive markets in the country. During the last 10 years, Winn-Dixie, once a ubiquitous presence, skipped out; Food Lion entered and turned tail, and Albertson’s, one of the current dominant players, is backing off. Formats and practices that worked for them elsewhere proved less effective in the Metroplex.
Meanwhile, locally based Minyard Food Group has dug in its heels and is banking its fortunes on the projected growth of the area’s Hispanic population. Importantly, hot bakeries, or panaderías, and pastry shops, or pastelerías, are taking front-andcenter positions, literally, in the company’s strategy.
Since the 1930s, formerly family-owned Minyard served the Metroplex with its conventional Minyard Food Stores and, later, Sack ’n Save box stores. Recognizing the emerging Hispanic market, the company introduced its first Carnival Super Market in 1990 and subsequently operated 23 Carnival stores.
New focus on Carnival division
After the family-owned business was sold in October 2004 to a Texas investment company, the new owner chose the Carnival division to lead its growth. Market research showed the greatest sales opportunity was among Hispanic consumers.
Many existing Carnival stores are located in predominately Hispanic neighborhoods, which with the rest of North Texas likely will experience population growth of as much as 40 percent during the next five years, notes Poul Heilmann, company senior vice president-marketing/strategic planning. Market research shows that Hispanics shop for food on average 6.5 times a week, compared to the general population, which visits food stores 2.2 times. "One of the drivers is picking up fresh bakery foods, such as bolillos, Mexican sweet breads and decorated cakes," he explains.
Company officials visited Hispanic-focused supermarkets in Mexico and across the United States and hired senior managers with experience in operating supermarkets in both countries. Focus group studies, conducted for the company, showed that Hispanic consumers value fresh products, including bakery foods, made from authentic Mexican recipes; they also want the products early and throughout the day.
"Though other operators might consider bakery tertiary, we learned that the panadería is a critical element for the Hispanic consumer," Heilmann says. "That’s why we’ve put such a strong focus on baking and made our bakeries service bakeries."
Last April, Minyard remodeled four Carnival stores, employing elements that it later incorporated in a flagship store that opened in late August in south central Dallas. This newest store is a testing facility for future new and remodeled Carnival locations.
The flagship store features some 30,000 SKUs of non-perishable, branded imported and domestic Hispanic and non-Hispanic food items. But, it’s the store’s service perishables departments that present the Hispanic theme in a big way.
Upon entering the store at the perishables area, shoppers encounter a cacophony of Hispanic music, vivid colors and activity behind the sales counters of the panadería, pastelería, tortillaría (tortilla), salichichería (deli), cocina (kitchen), carnicería (meat), pescadería (fish) and frutiería (fruit bar) departments.
Collectively, they present a Mexican village square motif with a central in-store eating area, featuring 15 oak picnic tables and benches under festive lighting. Colorful bilingual signs and bright, lively graphics identify each department and convey the "village storefront" ambiance.
The bakery and pastry shop, located first in the perishables area, amplify the vibrant environment with public address announcements every 30 minutes. Delivered in Spanish and repeated in English, they call attention to hot, fresh-from-theoven products; the week’s specials, or the day’s product demonstration.
Just beyond the bakery, kitchen and deli, the tortillaría is a beehive of activity. Associates use a semi-automated makeup and grilling line with rapid-fire precision to prepare scratchmade corn and wheat tortillas and related items from 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
The bakery and pastry shop offer on average 300 to 400 different SKUs, mostly Hispanic items and a broad selection of conventional products, such as decorated cakes, pies and pud ding cakes, many with a Hispanic flair.
Customers entering the bakery first must walk along either side of an 18-ft.-long by 6-ft.-high self-service "bun run." Topto-bottom glass doors along both sides offer access to more than 20 different varieties of individual Mexican and Central American rolls and sweet breads; some classic items include empaíadas (fruit-filled pastries), conchas (egg bread rolls iced with pastry críme) and banderillas (puff pastries with egg glaze).
Next, a Plexiglas island offers top-selling bolillos (6-oz. crusty mini baguette-like rolls), the main bread staple for a Mexican family.
Forty feet of low-volume, service and self-service cases contain expected Hispanic sweets, such as tres leches (three milks) cakes, and conventional items, among them puff and Danish pastries, and decorated and dessert cakes. An adjacent 4-ft. upright self-service case displays frozen decorated cakes.
To enhance its appeal, the bakery modifies both its Hispanic and conventional products to meet local needs. "We’re listening to our customers and taking traditional, authentic recipes to offer what they want," Heilmann says.
"We couldn’t offer just any bolillo or tres leches cake; we had to offer the bolillo and tres leches cake that our customers want. So, we adjusted our recipes accordingly."
Guiding the product lineup, as well as directing bakery, deli and prepared foods operations, is Faye Greenberg, vice president, deli-bakery merchandising, whom Minyard hired in 2004. A graduate of L’acadamie de Cordon Bleu in Paris, France, she had directed or worked in bakery, deli, prepared foods and grocery operations for Wild Oats Market, Irvine Ranch Farmers Market, Gooch’s Market, Von Cos.’s Pavilion division, and H. E. Butt Grocery Co.’s Central Market.
Greenberg has drawn on her experience and tapped store associates’ knowledge to create line extensions to typical bakery foods. For example, to broaden the tres leches cake category, the bakery added new flavors to the traditional vanilla-and-milk flavored cake: chocolate (chocolate cake in place of white cake), strawberry (sliced strawberries between the layers), pineapple (crushed pineapple layered over the finished cake), and lime (lime curd within the cake).
Mix-prepared pudding cakes are offered in 30 flavors, among them strawberry, apricot, pineapple, lemon, Bavarian críme, cream cheese, pumpkin, apple spice and chocolate.
Greenberg says Hispanic consumers have taken to pudding cakes also because they offer an alternative to traditional cake. "They are more versatile–for breakfast, lunch snack or evening dessert with ice cream," she notes. "When sliced into smaller pieces, they are a good dessert fondue and as an ingredient in ice cream sundaes."
Bolillos, Napoleons and pudding cakes have become signature products because customers can purchase the many varieties only from Carnival bakeries, Greenberg says.
Bakers prepare most products from frozen raw ingredients and use mixes and scratch for a few items. To achieve authenticity, Minyard sought suppliers whose products are created from Mexican and Central American formulas.
Each frozen dough, such as telera roll dough, is used to make several different items. Similar to lean bolillos, telera rolls have less yeast, are softer with slightly more oil and emulsifiers and are dusted with flour. Consumers generally make sandwiches, or tortas, with them. Bakers also use telera dough to prepare individual pizza in flavors such as three pepper, onion, jalapeío and spinach and feta cheese.
Scratch-made dough for apple-, pumpkin- and pineapplefilled empaíadas also is the base for several other individual pastries, such as lenas, logs filled with pastry cream.
Greenberg and Heilmann say that sales of decorated cakes, already totaling $2,000 to $3,000 a week, likely will increase as the bakery’s three decorators’ reputations for creativity and execution spread. They note that Hispanics not only enjoy consuming cake, they also like to celebrate events with decorated cakes, more than does the general population. For example, families mark their daughters’ fifteen birthdays with quincinerias, celebrations whose cakes’ details often approach those of wedding cakes.
These factors support the notion that Hispanics are more inclined to shop in-store bakeries regularly, as compared with the general population. The flagship bakery’s sales distribution, 6 percent to 9 percent of store sales, demonstrates this; the national in-store average is less than 4 percent. Another reflection: The store’s commercial bakery aisle contains about one-half the amount of products displayed in similarly sized conventional supermarkets.
Minyard says it plans to refine the Carnival format as it remodels stores and expands its store base. The company has purchased two sites in Fort Worth for new stores; plans call for breaking ground for at least one store by the end of this year.
"We’re still learning things in our flagship store," he says. "And, we’re still working to come up with the right allocation of space to sales. Regardless, the focus will remain on fresh, including bakery–that’s the differentiation that Carnival makes."
a sampling of prices
Mexican wedding cookies, 13 ozs. ........................$2.99
Chocolate chip cookies, 18 count, 16 ozs. ...........$2.99
Plain croissants, 4 count, 12 ozs. ..........................$3.29
Apple turnover, 4 count .........................................$2.99
Mini orange muffins, 12 count, 10.8 ozs. .............$2.99
Lemon-filled pudding cake, 20 ozs. ......................$2.99
Plain angel food cake, 15 ozs.................................$3.49
Cream cheese-iced red velvet cake, 24 ozs. ........$6.99
Tres leches cake, 8 ins., single layer, 32 ozs. ......$8.99
Decorated cake, 1/4 sheet ..................................$12.99
Jalapeío pepper corn bread, 16 ozs. ....................$1.79
Bolillo rolls, 5 count ................................................$1.00
at a glance
Headquarters: Coppell, Texas
Owner: The Minyard Group, which also operates 24 Minyard Food Stores and 18 Sack ’n Save supermarkets
Web site: www.carnivalsupermarkets.com
Management: Michal Byars, chief executive officer/ president; Poul Heilmann, senior vice presidentmarketing/strategic planning; Faye Greenberg, vice president, deli-bakery merchandising; Rení Torres, deli-bakery merchandiser; Jacquelyn Mostalik, delibakery category manager
Primary competitors: Wal-Mart, Albertson’s, Kroger, Fiesta Mart, Tom Thumb, independents
Market served: Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex
Number of stores/bakeries: 24/24
Flagship store/bakery size: 56,000 sq. ft./2,500 sq. ft.
Number of flagship bakery employees: 14 full time, 16 part time
Product line: full line of 300-400 SKUs, mostly Hispanic items, including breads/rolls; sweet breads; cookies; pastries; and conventional items, including decorated cakes, donuts, pies, puff/Danish pastries, cookies, cheesecake, muffins
Major equipment: vertical mixers, roll-in proofer, two rotary rack ovens, donut fryer, computerized decorating machine, bread slicer, walk-in refrigerator/freezer, pan washer
Plans: build two Carnival stores in Fort Worth, remodel existing Carnival stores, convert most Minyard/Sack ’n Save stores to Carnival, close some older, smaller stores
Bakery supply distributors: The Minyard Group distribution center