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November 13, 2018

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Publix's New Flavor

With its push into Florida's Hispanic market, the Lakeland-based supermarket chain is cashing in on a lucrative niche.

Amy Keller | 10/1/2007

While Florida shoppers aren’t likely to find frozen goat, beef knuckles and guava-and-cheese turnovers at their neighborhood Publix store, such items are practically staples at Publix Sabor, the Latino-centric supermarket concept Publix launched two years ago. With two locations in Kissimmee and Hialeah, Sabor — which means “flavor” in Spanish — offers a wide array of items popular in the Hispanic culture, everything from 20-pound bags of rice to media noche, or midnight rolls, a Cuban specialty. The store environment also exhibits a unique Latino flare: Salsa and merengue music is piped in over the airwaves. Bright colors, ceramic tiles and wrought iron adorn the interior. All signage is in English and Spanish, and every employee is bilingual.

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With its push into Florida’s Hispanic market, the Lakeland-based supermarket chain is cashing in on a lucrative niche. Central Florida’s rapidly growing Hispanic community — 40% of Kissimmee’s population is of Latino origin according to the last U.S. Census — is estimated to have an $8.2-billion purchasing potential. And even though Hispanics tend to have lower incomes, consumer research suggests they spend significantly more on groceries than the average U.S. shopper because they tend to have larger families and eat more often at home. While the average consumer spends $92.50 a week on groceries, Hispanics spent about $133 a week, according to the Food Marketing Institute.

Key to Sabor’s success is its emphasis on the bakery department. The Sabor in Hialeah, for instance, features a 2,700-sq.-ft. bakery that offers fresh Colombian bread loaves, hot Cuban bread and more than 100 fresh pastries daily. The department also features an ice creamery with ice cream cones, crème cakes, sundaes and shakes in tropical fruit flavors and traditional varieties. Many items in the bakery are tailored to large family celebrations, and the staff is trained to create specialty items, including quinceañera cakes — ornate, tiered cakes with rolled fondant icing used to celebrate a girl’s 15th birthday.

The produce section, meanwhile, features an expanded array of offerings, including root vegetables such as yucca and yautia a variety of sliced or chunked tropical fruits, salads and a tropical juice bar with more than a dozen flavors in single-serve and half-gallon services. Also on hand are popular Hispanic herbs and seasonings such as recao, cilantrillo and sofrito.

The full-service deli department also features an array of Hispanic favorites, including seafood rice, chicken fricassee, ox tail, roast pork, rice, beans and plantains. A hot foods station in the deli at the Kissimmee location features fried pork rinds, stewed chicken, red beans and pigs feet and a green banana croquet. As Meat & Deli Retailer notes, among the nearly two-dozen varieties of Boar’s Head-branded cheese available at Sabor are Queso Blanco, a semi-soft white cheese, and Queso Para Freir, a semi-soft frying cheese. The store’s full-service meat department, meanwhile, offers a range of hard-to-find cuts, including pig feet, tripe, grouper head, frozen goat and chicken feet.

Food aside, Publix Sabor provides an array of services: Money transfers, coin-sorting machines, bill payment services for utility, phone and cable bills and calling cards for specific countries. The 61,000-sq.-ft. Sabor store in Hialeah store also has a hair-and-nail salon and a boutiques department that sells perfume and jewelry.

Two years after its debut, Publix is planning to open two additional Sabor stores in south Florida — one in Miami’s Flagler Park area and another in an undisclosed location. Maria Broux, a Publix spokeswoman, told the trade publication Shopping Centers Today that the company’s first two Sabor units “already outperform the regular Publix stores that occupied the sites.”

Tags: North Central

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