Focus on Hispanic tastes makes Sedano's a force in south Florida
by Chip Carter | May 05, 2010
In 1962, the Herrán and Guerra families opened their first grocery store in
Miami, offering familiar fare to the ever-increasing influx of Hispanics into
south Florida. By the time the company entered the Orlando, FL, market with
three new stores earlier this year, Sedano's Supermarkets had grown to
become one of the nation's larger Hispanic grocery chains, employing more
than 3,000 people.
Despite the focus on Hispanic fare, Sedano's is a perfect example of an
American success story. From mom-and-pop beginnings, Sedano's has
grown steadily for almost half a century to 34 stores in Miami-Dade,
Broward, Palm Beach, Orange and Osceola counties. Newer branches are
larger - the three Orlando markets range in size from 58,000 square feet to
65,000 square feet in size - and even older stores are being remodeled and
retrofitted to reflect changing tastes and times. Décor is brighter and more
colorful, ceilings are higher, and stores are better lit.
The three Orlando locations are the first outside Sedano's south Florida base.
Chain manager Pedro Mesa said that the first foray into unfamiliar territory
has been surprisingly successful. "We didn't anticipate the kind of success we
are having there. We knew we were going to be doing well, but this is
amazing - much better than we anticipated. We thought it was going to take
more time," Mr. Mesa said. "We've been studying the Orlando market for
awhile, and we knew there were a lot of Hispanics there, but we thought it
was going to take longer for them to find us."
The new stores opened at the end of January, and the results have been so
surprising that the chain is already looking to expand into other markets, Mr.
The reason for that kind of success is simple. While Sedano's honors
tradition, it also realizes that today's consumers have a lot of options. They
are not simply looking for comfort food from home - they want service,
selection and quality as well.
"We've been working for a while trying to get the second-generation
shoppers to come into our stores, and it's been happening. We're seeing the
younger customers," Mr. Mesa said. "We're trying to stay with the mother, but
we're also trying to get that son to come into the store and feel comfortable
and have all the products he eats."
These days, more and more that means value-added and ready-to-eat
selections as well as bonus features like cafeterias and coffee shops. New and
retrofitted Sedano's supermarkets feature prepared foods sections, custom-
cut meat departments, diverse Latin and mainstream products, and cafeterias
serving espresso and pastelitos.
At a time when other retailers are contracting to avoid shrink, Sedano's has
increased the variety of goods it offers. The company does not lump the
Hispanic market together in a single group; instead, it micro-markets,
offering food from home to immigrants from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean,
South America, Central America, Mexico and Cuba.
"Definitely Hispanic products is our niche, but that's not enough. We're trying
to get the whole family to go in our stores and be able to get what they want.
Customer service is very important also. We want to make sure they have the
total experience, the whole package, the products they're looking for and the
service they deserve," Mr. Mesa said.
That kind of diversity can make sourcing challenging, especially when it
comes to produce. "Each store really pays attention to the neighborhood and
who is shopping there. In south Florida, we know exactly who those different
groups that live around our area are, so we have a bigger variety of those
products," Mr. Mesa said. "In Orlando, we have a huge variety, and we're
expanding where we need to expand. Orlando has been a little harder for
sourcing, but a lot of the suppliers have been following us in our expansion,
so we have the same or more produce items in Orlando than we have in
Miami. We have done a good job on that end, and that's one of the reasons
people are coming to our stores. We're looking and hearing and making sure
that we have what we need to have."
When it comes to produce, "We have a lot of people from Central America,
South America, a lot of people from the islands that shop in our stores, so
we make a big effort to have all the products they consume regardless of
where they come from," Mr. Mesa said. "We intend to have what you ate at
home; we intend to have it in the stores, and if you don't find it, we want to
know. And if you let us know, we'll make every effort to find it."
Today more than ever, consumers are focused on "getting the most for their
money," Mr. Mesa said. And they are shopping more frequently and buying
less in each trip. "There has been a change in the pattern of shopping, and
we have adjusted to customer needs" by offering frequent specials on staples
and bigger packages - sometimes as large as in big-box discount stores - at
After 48 successful years in south Florida, Sedano's is not trying to become
the next Publix or Kroger overnight. "We're always looking," Mr. Mesa said.
"For sure central Florida has been good for us. Tampa is a great area. We're
keeping our eyes and ears open."
For now, "Being the size that we are, we're hear what customers need, what
they're looking for, and we can react immediately," Mr. Mesa said. "Here the
customer talks to the manager and five minutes later it's on the desk of the
decision maker. Maybe in the bigger chains it's not that way. We can make
those decisions much quicker than other people."