Bashas' Partners with Mexican Restaurant to Sell Ready-to-Eat Food

CHANDLER, Arizona - In an unusual venture for a food retailer, Arizona's Bashas' Inc. is partnering with Tucson-based El Charro restaurants to sell ready-to-eat Mexican food at Bashas' and Food City stores throughout the state, the Arizona Daily Star reports.

The food, which might include chile verde, tamales, chimichangas and refried beans, will be prepared at Chonita Foods, a Tucson manufacturing plant now jointly owned and operated by the owners of El Charro, and the Basha family. It could be sold in the deli sections of all 130 Arizona grocery stores owned by the Bashas within the next year, according to the newspaper. Choices will vary from store to store.

"We hope to see at least one of our products -- if not several of them -- in all 130 stores within the next eight to 12 months," said Ray Flores Jr., president of El Charro/Chonita and president of Grupo Flores/Bashas', the new joint venture.

Chonita Foods already has prepared foods for sale at delis in 30 Basha-owned supermarkets for the past three years. The dishes are shipped frozen and sold hot.

"Last year at Christmas alone Bashas' bought 30,000 beef tamales from us, so it's a large amount of food," Flores Jr. said.

Neither he nor Bashas' executives would disclose expected sales volumes or totals.

In addition to supplying El Charro and Bashas', Chonita makes tamales sold at two Costco Wholesale stores in the Tucson area and food served at catered events.

"The great taste of El Charro food is well known by generations of Southern Arizonans," said Eddie Basha, chairman of the board of Bashas' Inc. "This partnership will make chef Carlotta Flores' recipes available through food items prepared in a USDA-approved facility. It combines the incredible flavor of the Southwest with the consistent quality insured by USDA-supervised production."

El Charro and Bashas' will each be able to choose from among the more than 190 recipes at Chonita, so a customer could conceivably buy at Bashas' some of the same things that are offered at El Charro, according to the newspaper.

Chonita also will develop new recipes and possibly branded foods for Bashas' grocery stores, Flores Jr. said. The two companies are working on jointly developing some brands, he added.

"Branding is something we're going to work on. The Food City Brand could be separate from the Bashas' brand, could be separate from the El Charro brand. We may just have different brands for all these things and different recipe twitches for each one of them, depending on cost points, customer need, demand, etc.," Flores Jr. said.
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