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Publix GreenWise Market
To Open For Business

Jim Prevor’s Perishable Pundit, September 21, 2007

With the exception of Tesco’s opening on the west coast, perhaps the most consequential opening of a retail concept this year will be the opening of the Publix GreenWise Market, the first of which will open Thursday in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. The Sun-Sentinel ran a story:

Publix GreenWise Market, Lakeland-based Publix Super Markets’ first health, natural and organic store, will debut next Thursday offering shoppers gourmet prepared foods with curbside pickup service and thousands of grocery items that aren’t sold in traditional Publix supermarkets.

Located at the Legacy Place shopping center in Palm Beach Gardens, company officials anticipate the 39,000-square-foot store will be a destination for foodies and health nuts as well as conventional grocery shoppers. Other GreenWise stores are planned for Boca Raton, Coral Springs, Tampa and Vero Beach.

GreenWise Market will compete with Whole Foods Market and others who sell higher-margin natural and organic foods. With a concentration of more than 100 prepared-meal options — ranging from pizza to churrasco steak — the grocery store also aims to give patrons an alternative to upscale restaurant dining at similar prices.

“You probably have five restaurants under one roof here to choose from,” Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens said. “We looked at this as a way to compete with the restaurants.”

As the number of two-income families, time-starved soccer moms and dads, and young adults who don’t like to cook continues to increase, consumers are buying almost half of their food at restaurants and takeout establishments, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Food Marketing Institute, which represents about 1,500 food retailers and wholesalers in the United States and around the world.

Grocery stores have lost considerable market share, and have been looking for opportunities to win back those food dollars by expanding prepared-food offerings in their stores, experts say.

”The grocery shoppers of the future are going to want their food in that form,” said Bill Greer, a food institute spokesman.

Consumers are starting to accept the idea of buying prepared foods at grocery stores as their perception of food quality improves, said Darren Tristano, an analyst at Technomic, a Chicago-based food and restaurant research firm. “Whole Foods has changed a lot of that,” Tristano said.

Publix introduced its GreenWise brand in the mid-1990s. Since then, the company has been growing the label and its range of health, natural and organic product lines, which have gained popularity despite higher prices. Traditional Publix stores have GreenWise sections that feature these products.

But the GreenWise Market store, which has been in development for more than two years, is devoted entirely to the concept and carries a vast array of upscale food items ranging from oils and balsamic vinegars aged more than 50 years to rare international wines and cheeses.

When shoppers enter the store, they are immediately guided into the 4,500-square-foot prepared food section, which features 10 venues grouped by distinct cuisine such as custom salads and sandwiches, Pacific Wok, and Mediterranean oven. The foods are trans-fat free and made with all-natural ingredients; some foods are prepared with organic bases, and there are a variety of vegetarian dishes available.

Company officials say they plan to introduce some of the prepared foods found at GreenWise at some mainstream grocery stores in South Florida.

The store also has an in-house cafe that serves coffees and smoothies, and shoppers can eat or rest at the 135-seat mezzanine area which is equipped with free wi-fi service.

You can look at some photos of the new store here.

And see a video here.

The reason this launch is consequential is because it will answer a question: Is the Whole Foods ideology an important factor in the success the stores?

Publix can do organic product, lots of foodservice, etc., but it probably will not out-granola Whole Foods if a certain political and philosophical bent is what is attracting customers.

Which is another way of saying that if GreenWise is a success, there is not a reason in the world why other chains will accept Whole Foods coming into their markets and skimming off their best customers.

To us the store looks like a winner. They have correctly noted that Whole Foods’ success is at least as much gastronomic as it is organic. They also have noted that in its new stores, it is foodservice driving the operation — not granola.

By offering curbside pickup GreenWise will “outservice” Whole Foods and its “10 venues” of prepared foods reminds us a bit of the Wegman’s Pods that we focused on here.

What we like best is that just as H.E. Butt realized its Central Market store should be a separate banner, Publix realizes that, even though it can share products and learning with its traditional stores, no product juggling or advertising will substitute for a separate banner to win consumer loyalty to a concept.

One hopes Wal-Mart will send a few people to check out these stores. With a strong market position, Publix could build a brand in traditional stores and then spin it off. Wal-Mart would be better off doing the reverse. Open a few trophy stores under a new banner in Manhattan, San Francisco, London, etc., and then once that brand is established, move it into select supercenters as a boutique.

In any case, if this hits, expect Kroger, Safeway and others to roll out similar concepts — and soon.

Best of luck to Publix on its new concept.

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