Publix to add a Latin flavor with Hispanic items


Published: Wednesday, January 5, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 4, 2005 at 11:12 p.m.

Publix Super Markets will be offering more ''sabor,'' or flavor, on its shelves when it breaks new grocery ground by launching its store-brand Hispanic products this year.

The late January launch is another indicator that Hispanic culture in America has gone mainstream, and shows the growing purchasing power and influence of Hispanics in Florida and the nation.

Items like frozen plantains and ready-to-eat black beans will give the store an edge over its competitors and offer customers more variety, company officials say.

The Lakeland-based chain, ranked in the top 10 among grocery retailers, is one of the first in the Southeast to launch its own private-label ethnic foods. Publix ranked ninth among the top 75 food retailers nationwide with sales of nearly $17 billion in 2003, according to Supermarket News, a trade publication.

The new line of foods will compete against more established brands like Goya and Badia, but at a lower price, a Publix spokesperson said.

A Palmetto company is also part of the recipe. Jonathan Greenlaw, who owns The Palmetto Canning Company, will make and bottle Publix's mojo marinade in his Palmetto plant. The company also bottles marinades for Goya, a New Jersey-based Hispanic foods company.

Greenlaw, who concocted the marinade in his home kitchen, said the newest creation is made with vinegar and is tangier than Goya's.

''It's a little bit of a departure,'' Greenlaw said. ''So it's different than the Goyas of the world.''

Hispanics tend to spend more and shop more frequently than non-Hispanics, according to reports from the Food Marketing Institute. For example, Hispanics spend about $117 a week for groceries, while other groups spend about $91, the group said.

But Publix executives say they're not only wooing Hispanic customers.

Maria Rodamis, a spokeswoman for Publix, said the chain wants to introduce Hispanic products to non-Hispanic customers. ''It's a misnomer that only Hispanics are enjoying Hispanic food,'' she said. ''We're out there to raise awareness and make the food that they enjoy eating out in restaurants.''

But Hispanics, like Lynette Miralla of Bradenton, are excited that they may see more variety on the shelves and more savings.

Miralla, a Puerto Rico native, said she's tired of jumping from store to store to get the things she needs to make traditional Hispanic dishes.

''We are always looking for a bargain,'' she said. ''When you find something you really like, it doesn't matter the brand; you stick to it.''

While the line of pre-packaged Hispanic foods is a first for Publix, it's not the first time the store has ventured into the Hispanic market. In some bakeries, customers can find flan - an egg-based custard - or tres leches (three milks), a creamy, spongy cake.

Nash Finch, a Midwestern food distribution and retail company, launched a private-label Hispanic line, Avanza (Advance). The company went a step further and opened stores, also called Avanza, aimed at Hispanics in Denver and Chicago.

The line will be rolled out across the Southeast and will include products such as espresso, frozen plantains, ready-to-eat black beans, frozen yucca and mojo, a garlicky marinade.

Rodamis said Publix will continue adding new products.

Publix executives said the chain isn't planning a marketing blitz to announce the new products. The products will be introduced via the store's weekly fliers, messages at the register and in-store promotions.

Industry experts said private-label brands can solidify a grocery store's customer base.

''They're looking for areas that they can differentiate themselves, and store brands are one way they can set themselves apart from the competitor,'' said Dane Twining of the Private Label Manufacturer's Association.

who is selling brands like Goya - brands that everyone else has

Stores that cater to Hispanics don't see Publix as major competition because the locals feel that they're filling a niche.

Bravo Supermarket in Bradenton is a large grocery store that dedicates its inventory to Hispanic as well as Haitian and Dominican products.

''I don't think it'll be a problem, not at all,'' said Domingo Diaz, a Bravo manager.

Rosa Rodriguez, manager of Mi Pueblito in Bradenton, said she's not worried about Publix moving in on her turf. The small store serves the neighborhood and packs its shelves with items like mole - a Mexican condiment made with chocolate - and jars of cactus.

''A lot of people that come here walk,'' Rodriguez said. ''They're not going to walk to Publix.''

Customers shop those stores to get specific items from countries like Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador.

Chris Sanchez, a Mi Pueblito customer, plopped down two bags of masa, a bag of spicy peppers, lard and corn husks, all ingredients for Mexican tamales.

Sanchez said she'll keep going to the small stores even after Publix enters the market.

''I don't hardly go to the big stores because they don't have what we need,'' Sanchez said.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top