KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Publix Super Markets' new Hispanic-themed store here, Publix Sabor, has an expanded array of offerings for Latino customers, but takes pains not to exclude its non-Hispanic shoppers.
"You don't have to be a Hispanic customer to love this store. You just have a greater variety here," said Maria Brous, director of media and community relations for Lakeland, Fla.-based Publix. She gave SN a tour of the supermarket, which opened last month.
The 39,000-square-foot store, which had been a traditional Publix since 1989, was gutted and completely revamped with a new color scheme and logo. Hispanic offerings were significantly expanded in areas like the deli, where 50 prepared Hispanic dishes developed by Publix's in-house chefs are offered. In frozen foods, about 17 doors -- or nearly half of all offerings -- are traditional Hispanic items.
While some mainstream stockkeeping units had to be cut to make room for Hispanic items, Publix did not eliminate its most popular mainstream products, Brous stressed. Ketchup, for example, is still offered, but the product now occupies less shelf space. The store's logo and all marketing material still include the Publix name in addition to "Sabor," which means "flavor" in Spanish. "It was very important for us to keep Publix in the name. The only difference is we have a greater array of Hispanic offerings," Brous said.
The store is located in a Hispanic neighborhood in this central Florida city, which is demographically mixed. A store in Hialeah in south Florida is also slated to be converted to the Publix Sabor format, but officials have not released a date for that opening. Brous said the store will remain open during the renovation.
"In the south Florida store, we have already integrated [Hispanic foods]. The difference will be the amenities and services, including adding a juice bar and an ice cream bar," Brous said. The store's cafe will also feature a walk-up window.
Brous would not say whether Publix plans to open or convert other Sabor stores.
Meanwhile, the Kissimmee store's focus on Hispanic shoppers cannot be ignored: The format features bilingual aisle and product signs, bilingual employees, significantly expanded Hispanic food offerings in every department, Hispanic music playing throughout the store and a multicolored logo for Publix Sabor, which is distinct from the regular Publix logo.
In addition, the color scheme of the store -- lime green in the produce department, navy blue in the cafe area, and browns and oranges in other parts of the store -- is a sharp departure from the traditional Publix color combination of orange and green. "The [colors] were meant to create a warm and welcome environment, reminiscent of the Hispanic culture," Brous said. Wrought iron designs on the walls, decorative tile on section signs and metal signs in each department were also meant to reflect the feel of a Hispanic market, Brous said.
The cafe, where customers can buy pressed Cuban sandwiches, cafe con leche and Hispanic desserts, is featured at the front exit of the Sabor store. While cafes are included in some of Publix's south Florida stores, the Sabor format with cafe is a new addition for Publix in the central Florida market.
When customers enter the front of the store, the first department they encounter is produce, strategically placed to cater to the Hispanic customer. Traditionally at Publix, the department nearest the entrance is dairy or bakery, but this store was designed differently because "fruits and vegetables are staples for our Hispanic customers," Brous said.
The produce department's offerings of root vegetables, papaya and other traditionally Hispanic items are extensive: More than 20 feet of offerings on wooden displays. In addition, a 6-foot cooler features packages of fresh-cut Caribbean mixed fruit and papaya, along with ensalada, or Spanish salad.
In the deli department at the back of the store, prepared food offerings include boiled green bananas for $3.79 a pound and rice with pigeon peas for $3.99 a pound. A freestanding olive and antipasto refrigerated wooden cart in the deli area offers 12 self-serve selections of olives and antipasto for $6.99 a pound.
In the meat department, also at the back of the store, Publix plays up typical Hispanic items such as bola, beef sold in a big ball.
In the bakery, near the cafe at the exit of the store, Cuban bread is featured in a warmer for 99 cents a loaf. A 4-foot refrigerated case of desserts prepared by Publix includes flan, rice pudding and cappuccino balls.
In center store, Publix Sabor features many more Hispanic offerings in each section than its other stores, including three new varieties of canned beans in Publix's private-label bean offerings.