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Bread Is Big Business In Puerto Rico

Old-style bakeries are spinning off into attractive eateries; new bread concepts step in for a slice of market


January 8, 2004
Copyright © 2004 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Costco in Puerto Rico sells in excess of 150 million loaves of sweet bread and more than 250 million units of cakes and pastries each year. Pasteleria Los Cidrines annually makes three million pounds of bread at its Arecibo plant for sale at 500 points around the island, and Pan Pepin this year will open the third of the four Don Pepin Factory Shops. Total investment in all three is $2.4 million.

Not for nothing are bread and dough synonymous with money. Bread is big business in Puerto Rico, but like other enterprises competing in the food area, it has had to change. Thus, old-fashioned bakeries are evolving into new retail concepts in which baked goods share counter space with other food selections and store amenities to grab the public’s attention. Also, new nontraditional bread concepts are turning up on the island, seeking a slice of this lucrative market.

The newest entrant is Florida-based Pan & Plus, an innovative concept that consists of minibakeries that take up minimal space within established commercial sites such as supermarkets or gas stations and produce hot, fresh-baked bread throughout the day.

One example of how bakeries are redefining and positioning themselves in the highly competitive food marketplace is Los Cidrines Bakery & Pastry Shop on De Diego Avenue in Rio Piedras’ San Francisco community. The company recently spent $500,000 to remodel the store, said Juan Mateo Cidre, operations manager of Los Cidrines, the company founded more than 25 years ago by his father, Manuel Cidre. The remodeling, done in two stages to avoid a shutdown, has given the store a modern ambience highlighted by gleaming Italian refrigerators and furnishings.

Catering to young professionals, Los Cidrines Bakery is now offering tapas, a selection of 96 wines from a cellar stocked with 280 wines, and light meals. Takeout lunches are also available, with free delivery for 10 or more orders. Store patrons can also buy a wide selection of quesitos and high-quality breads–from pan de agua and pan sobao to whole-wheat fiber breads.

This year, said Cidre, three Cidrines Express will open in areas with heavy pedestrian traffic at a total investment of about $1.5 million. The first one will probably be in Guaynabo; the location of the other two is still up in the air.

"The metropolitan area has so much potential that there is room for up to five stores," said Cidre, who credits his father with teaching him the key lessons in running a business. "Ever since I was a little boy, I saw with what care he treated clients. He never taught me how to make bread, but he did teach me how important clients are," said the 26-year-old entrepreneur.

Cidre said sales at the San Francisco store have picked up 17% in the two months since the remodeling was completed. As for the upcoming additions, he said each store will generate 20 jobs and bring in an estimated $1.6 million in sales.

Meanwhile, Pan & Plus P.R., a partnership between Juan Cueria and Maquipan International Inc., owner of Pan & Plus in Florida, has big plans on the island. Pan & Plus sells and distributes ultrafrozen bread (French baguettes, whole wheat, and rustic breads, among others) and pastries from Europe through Hot Bread Centers in established commercial sites.

The island’s first Hot Bread Center opened Nov. 30 at Frigorifico Almacen Perez & Hermanos in Cayey, and another four are slated to open in January, including one at Ponce Cash & Carry, said Cueria. He hopes to establish 30 to 40 bread centers in 2004. He is targeting supermarkets before reaching out to convenience stores and gas stations. Later, he will approach hotels and restaurants.

"This is the most advanced technology to offer a full range of precooked and frozen bread and frozen pastry," said Cueria. More than 150 Hot Bread Centers have been established in Florida and Las Vegas since Pan & Plus began operations on the U.S. mainland in 1999.

Pan & Plus chose Marvel Specialties to handle the storage and delivery of frozen breads, pastries, and other products such as pizzas and Spanish tortillas to Hot Bread Centers on the island. Only 35 of the company’s 125 products will initially be available in Puerto Rico, with the frequency of deliveries to be based on the amount of business generated by each center.

The minibakeries require an investment of some $15,000, including the oven, employee uniforms, and training. Cueria said the centers are easy to operate, don’t require specialized personnel, and the breads and pastries can be heated in 12 to 15 minutes. "This new Hot Bread Center concept allows you to diversify your business by optimizing the income-producing potential of your space," he said.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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