HOUSTON -- The bakery in the newest Grocery World store to open here will cater to what officials say is a large Jewish population, roughly 35% of the neighborhood, said Gary Friedlander, president of Rice Food Markets, which owns the Grocery World format.
ed, shopper response to the new bakery format has been overwhelming and the percentage of store customers who are unhappy with the change is minimal, said Douglas Dick, director of food services for the company.
After it made the decision to offer products that would be more likely to bring this community to the store, Rice had to decide how it would produce the products, said company officials.
"We had to decide, do we want to do this internally or outsource," Friedlander said. "What we've really been doing, for the most part, is outsourcing."
The store outsources most of its products from Three Brothers Bakery, a local Jewish bakery that has been a fixture in the community for many years, supplemented by two other local bakers.
"They're well known to the Jewish community," Friedlander said about Three Brothers, which has been in the city for 45 years.
"We've had a few people say they missed our [previous format] bakery, but 99.9% of the shoppers are thrilled," Dick said. "Everyone knows they make the best rye bread around."
The bulk of the department's assortment is now produced outside the store, and in-store baking is reserved for the store's best items only, which include mini-muffins, pies, cookies, angel food cakes and cheese straws.
"We're pretty much out of the baking bread business," Dick said. "It's probably one of the most difficult parts of running a bakery. Outsourcing is the way to go for this format."
The local bakers supply a wide variety of products, from bagels to rugelach, Friedlander said. LaMadeleine Bakers, based in Dallas, provides French favorites such as French crusty bread and sour dough bread, and Houston-based Sheila Parton's provides soft dinner rolls and soft sour dough bread.
On most days, shoppers can find fresh Challah breads in the Grocery World in-store bakery, and every Friday Three Brothers brings in an increased supply for the weekend Sabbath, said Friedlander.
The department was taken by surprise initially. "We were sold out by 2 p.m. on the first day," he said. "Nobody was prepared."
When the company began converting some of its Rice Food Markets into Grocery World stores, it had not included a bakery or deli in the re-mix, opting to concentrate solely on the meat, seafood and produce departments.
"We took a look at the demographics and we really didn't think it would be a profitable move," said Dick, referring to putting bakeries in the first two stores.
But in the third store, company officials saw an opportunity, as well as a responsibility to serve the large Hispanic community. That store now outsources its bakery products from a small local bakery owned and operated by a husband and wife team.
While there are not an overwhelming number of bakery products specific to Hispanics, Friedlander said, the 90% Hispanic community identifies with the local baker, which draws them in to shop.
"We've been operating [Rice Food] stores for the past 15 or 20 years, so I think we have a pretty good feel for what our shoppers want," Friedlander added.