OAK CLIFF, Texas — National brands from Mexico and El Salvador are part of the limited-assortment of Save-A-Lot's newest store here.
The deep discounter whose exclusive brands comprise up to 65% of its selection, sought the products to appeal to the Hispanic ethnicities represented in the community.
“It is the first Save-A-Lot store that serves a predominantly Latino population,” said Andrea Wagner, vice president of fresh for Save-A-Lot of the Dallas-area location.
Save-A-Lot, St. Louis, Mo., merchandises Hispanic fare in segregated sets in locations frequented by Latinos, but the new store is unique in that it integrates broader ethnic offerings throughout the store.
Private-label staples like Hilltop Mill's rice, Coburn Farms cheese and Ginger Evans sugar have a presence here, alongside national brands from the U.S. and offerings from Latin America. Though some products are imported, shoppers at the Oak Cliff store can still save up to 40%, according to Wagner.
“When consumers walk in they will see brands like La Costeña, Dona Maria or Jarritos,” she said. “We want to provide them with the high quality of exclusive brands at a lower price, but also understand that in some cases the customer wants the national brand.”
For Mexican consumers, this means products like Dolores tuna, Fud hot dogs and lunch meat, and Lala yogurt and drinkable yogurt.
“Lala is the No. 1 milk brand in Mexico, and it's also known for its yogurt,” noted Wagner.
Shoppers with ties to El Salvador will recognize Mama Lycha Salvadoran cream, red silk beans and other native foods.
Rather than a hurdle, Save-A-Lot views its 1,500 SKU parameter as an opportunity to simplify consumer choice. Like all Save-A-Lot stores, the new location takes up fewer than 12,000 square feet. Employees are bilingual and signs are presented in both English and Spanish.
“It gives us a lot of good discipline to make sure the shopping experience is easier for her,” noted Wagner.
In that vein, the retailer — who recently embarked on a five-year plan to double its stores to 2,400 by 2014 — has begun to fully integrate items in stores with separate Hispanic food sets. The move will help keep pace with demand in the burgeoning demographic, which makes up almost 15% of the U.S. population, according to Wagner.
“We didn't want shoppers to feel they had to shop a certain area of the store,” she said.
Wagner could not share plans for entry into other Hispanic markets, but did say it continues to seek communities in need of more affordable groceries.
“I can't imagine this would be our only [Hispanic] entry,” she said.
If Save-A-Lot's commitment to the Oak Cliff community is any indication of its interest in the demographic, there will be more new stores to come.
A series of community-focused activities were scheduled to kick off with a childhood obesity awareness event in the new store's parking lot on Saturday from noon to 4 p.m.
“The goal of the event is to provide information and resources that many Hispanics might not be aware of due to a language barrier, or because they are new to the country,” Wagner told SN last week.
Save-A-Lot is focusing on the health of Hispanic children in particular since they are at greater risk of developing health problems associated with being overweight.
Statistics show that one in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, but rates are even higher in the Hispanic community, with 39% of kids affected.
“Hopefully, we'll give exposure to these families that they've never had before,” Wagner said.
Free health and body mass index screenings, fitness activities, cooking demos, consultations with health professionals and more were to be provided by Save-A-Lot in partnership with the American Diabetes Association, YMCA, Dallas County Health & Human Services, Dallas City WIC, Texas A&M Agri-Life, Fit-for-Me Foundation and Dallas Concilio. The event was heavily promoted by non-profit partners and through Spanish and English radio and print media.
Since Hispanics are almost twice as likely to develop diabetes as non-Hispanic whites, the ADA partnered with a nurse from the Parkland Health & Hospital System, Dallas, to conduct blood pressure screenings and check for acanthosis nigricans, or dark velvety marks that present themselves on those who produce too much insulin, said Gina Perales Hethcock, director of communications and Hispanic initiatives for the ADA.
“If children are found to be at risk, [the nurse] will refer them to a doctor from her own health system,” she said.
Its efforts come as more and more children are developing diabetes.
“Doctors are telling us that they're seeing a lot more kids with type 2 diabetes and a long time ago that wasn't the case,” Perales Hethcock said. “Type 1 diabetes usually occurs in children and type 2 in adults, but we're seeing those lines being blurred.”
Since obesity is to blame, the ADA planned to distribute bilingual pamphlets and show videos promoting good nutrition and an active lifestyle, along with materials about the disease.
The YMCA also planned to have a strong presence by demonstrating aerobic-type activities to get kids off the couch. It hoped to spread the word about different programs available to the community, Keith Vinson, vice president of operations for YMCA Dallas, told SN.
As part of the YMCA's summer day camp program, children play basketball, soccer, volleyball and learn about water safety, since many in west Dallas wouldn't otherwise have access to a swimming pool.
“We want to make sure that the Spanish-speaking population knows that the YMCA is open for all,” he said. “Our goal is to not turn anyone away due to their inability to pay.”
Demos, games and raffles were also planned for the event as were “Dare to Compare” stations, where Hispanic shoppers — who tend to be more brand-loyal than the average consumer — could taste Save-A-Lot's exclusive brand items and compare their price with national brand counterparts.