VILLAGE PANTRY LIKES SUCCESS OF SANDWICH LINE

INDIANAPOLIS -- Targeting the area's growing Hispanic population, Village Pantry stores recently launched a line of Hispanic sandwiches.Early sales suggest there's a broad audience for ready-to-heat burritos, as well as calzones, which are also big sellers, officials said."It's a fantastic program," said Antonio DiCarlo, food-service operations manager for the Village Pantry, the convenience store

INDIANAPOLIS -- Targeting the area's growing Hispanic population, Village Pantry stores recently launched a line of Hispanic sandwiches.

Early sales suggest there's a broad audience for ready-to-heat burritos, as well as calzones, which are also big sellers, officials said.

"It's a fantastic program," said Antonio DiCarlo, food-service operations manager for the Village Pantry, the convenience store division of Marsh Supermarkets, based here. "It definitely transcends ethnic barriers, without a doubt."

At a 3,700-square-foot Village Pantry in suburban Zionsville, SN observed a 4-foot, self-serve case well stocked with an assortment of chicken and steak burritos ($1.89 each), steak and cheese calzones ($2.99 each) and "The Bomb" -- beef and bean, and beef, bean and cheese burritos ($2.49 each).

This particular store is a popular stop for the area's construction workers, who come in for quick meals, DiCarlo said.

In addition to those products, the stores feature Mexican dishes usually one day a week in the hot food case, he said. "We'll have burritos, chimichangas, tamales, jalapeno peppers and some rice dishes," DiCarlo said.

Though still a small minority in the predominantly white Indianapolis area, the Hispanic population increased significantly as a percentage of the overall population from 1990 to 2000, according to U.S. Census figures. Hispanics made up nearly 4% of the population of Marion County in 2000, compared to just over 1% in 1990. In nearby Hamilton County, north of Indianapolis, Hispanics made up 1.6% of the population in 2000, compared to less than 1% in 1990.

In numbers, 33,290 residents of Marion County and 2,911 residents of Hamilton County considered themselves Hispanic in 2000, compared to just 8,450 and 725 residents, respectively, in 1990, firgures show.

For Village Pantry, a 190-store chain, burritos could be just the beginning. Officials are considering a line of hot foods targeting Hispanics, and other shoppers with a taste for Latin cuisine, DiCarlo said.