George W. Jenkins founded Publix Super Markets BB #:110909 in 1930 in Winter Haven, FL. After more than 90 years, the chain, now headquartered in Lakeland, has close to 1,300 stores in seven states, with almost two-thirds of those located in its home state.
Publix is widely known for the care it takes of its employees, customers, and communities, and is consistently ranked not only as a top place to work but as one of the country’s most admired companies.
Ahead of the Curve
So, what makes Publix special or different from other supermarket chains?
Customers laud the in-store experience, where aisles are wide, brightly lit, and well organized. Shoppers eagerly await weekly BOGO deals, rave about the deli’s fresh subs (which have a cult-like following) and can even have their bags taken out to their cars if they want.
Publix has also been ahead of the curve on a number of key grocery trends over the years. These include opening its own cooking school and providing creative meal solutions.
“A growing category for us in produce is sheet-pan meals and air-fryer recipes, which we create in-house,” shares Maria Brous, Publix’s director of communications.
“In addition, our ready-to-heat, ready-to-eat program continues to resonate with our customers as convenience and easy-to-prepare remain top of mind for shoppers.”
Publix was also a pioneer in its focus on local fruits and vegetables and has close ties to growers and other suppliers in its communities.
“We work extremely hard to source our produce locally, from the areas in which we operate,” Brous says.
“If the produce isn’t available from our seven-state operating area, we look to source from across the United States, and then abroad,” she adds. “In many cases, we have multi-decade relationships with our growers and their families.”
Avi Nir, CEO of Pompano Beach-based Ayco Farms, Inc. BB #:168111, knows something about fresh, local produce. Ayco Farms supplies a range of fruits and vegetables to Publix, including asparagus, bell peppers, berries, lemons, mangos, melons, peas, and pineapple.
“Publix ranks at the top in terms of footprint and sales,” notes Nir. “Long-term partnerships, loyalty, and consistency create stability in its supply chain.”
Santa Monica, CA-based Phil Lempert, also known as the Supermarket Guru, concurs, citing a recent example. A longtime farmer told him that during the early days of Covid, his operation found itself without access to labor or trucks.
So Publix sent its own trucks. Without the help, Lempert says, the “farmer would have been out of business during the pandemic—that’s the philosophy Publix has had.”
Brous confirms the chain’s commitment isn’t just lip service. “We’re known for taking care of our customers, communities, and each other. We’re part of the fabric of the communities we serve.”
This is an excerpt from the Florida Supplement in the September/October 2022 issue of Produce Blueprints Magazine. Click here to read the whole supplement.