ORLANDO, Fla. -- ABC Fine Wine & Spirits here is expanding its selection of gourmet food to include upscale soft drinks.
ABC, which operates 170 wine and liquor stores in Florida and is the nation's largest liquor-store operator, has sold gourmet food in 50 of its more upscale stores for the past three years. The size of the departments range from 8 feet to the 96-foot department in ABC's new 35,000-square-foot Pembroke Pines store, which is located down the block from an Albertson's.
The Pembroke Pines unit has an expanded beverage section, stocking items such as brewed birch beer, Cafe Cola and Manhattan coffee sodas.
"We're getting into more of the higher-end, adult sodas," Helen McFarland, gourmet supervisor at ABC, told SN.
In addition, the Pembroke Pines gourmet-food department marks ABC's first foray into frozen and refrigerated food. Cheeses and meats are stocked in the two refrigerated cases, while items carried in the single frozen-food case include salmon, Good Wives hors d'oeuvres and pastas manufactured by Flora, a local company.
"We are testing the frozen foods in this one store, with the possibility of going into up to five stores with a frozen case," said McFarland.
She added that ABC has had success concentrating on items not commonly found in supermarket aisles. ABC stores stock upscale pasta sauces, like the Sutter Home brand, olive oils, chocolates and vinegars.
"We're trying to stay away from anything that goes into the supermarket," McFarland said. "We don't do the everyday vinegars, like Heinz, but we have the infused vinegars. We have a large selection of vegetables, but not the everyday items, like Del Monte green beans. We have things like stuffed olives, grape leaves and eggplant."
McFarland is not concerned about the supermarkets homing in on ABC's turf because, she said, unlike supermarkets, ABC is willing to buy from small start-up companies and other mom-and-pop operators.
"Most of the stuff we bring in through our own warehouse. We have our own warehouse and distribution trucks. We don't actually warehouse the food, but bring it in and cross dock it to bring it into one central location," she said.
Gourmet food has been a hit with shoppers, McFarland noted.
"We've gotten a very good response from our shoppers. The gourmet food fills a nice niche for them," she said.
To promote its gourmet-food offerings, ABC runs weekly newspaper ads, coupled with in-store specials and occasional product tastings.
"We recently did a tasting in the Pembroke Pines store where we had 12 different tables set up with different kinds of food on them so people could come in and try them. We had honey-mustard pretzel dip, and the whole Chef Alan's line in there. People could try chocolates. We had sloppy joe's and grilled vegetables. We will probably do one tasting every six to eight weeks," McFarland said.