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Publix to Test Meal Assembly Program, Build 2 More GreenWise Units

LAKELAND, Fla. -- In an unprecedented move for a supermarket operator, Publix Super Markets said yesterday it will introduce its own "Apron's Make-Ahead Meals" meal assembly program in two locations. The regional grocer is also expanding its Publix GreenWise Markets concept to include two additional Florida sites.

As an expansion of the Publix Apron's program, which includes recipes, simple meals, and cooking schools, Publix Apron's Make-Ahead Meals will pilot in two locations: 10500 San Jose Blvd., Suite 36, Jacksonville (which currently houses a cooking school); and 5642 Fishhawk Crossing Blvd., Lithia, Fla. (site of current store; however, a stand-alone version will be tested at this location).

"This is an organic, grassroots effort for Publix," Maria Brous, Publix director of media and community relations, told Progressive Grocer. "We see it as a great extension of our Aprons brand."

Under Apron's Make-Ahead Meals, customers can register online for a meals-assembly session. At the session, the ready-to-cook ingredients are prepared and ready to assemble. The meals are then built and packaged for customers to freeze and use later. For customers on the run, the program will also offer call-ahead for Publix assembly and customer pick-up.

In related news, Publix said it would expand its cooking schools. With three locations currently open (in Tampa, Sarasota, Fla., and Jacksonville, Fla.), two additional cooking schools have been added: 4305 State Bridge Rd., Alpharetta, Ga. (opening June 1, 2007); and 5050 Champion Blvd., Boca Raton, Fla. (opening date to be determined).

Meanwhile, in response to the competition established by natural food retailers, Publix is continuing with the expansion of Publix GreenWise Markets, a format dedicated to health and natural and organic products with an emphasis on prepared foods. With the first market set to open in early fall in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., followed by Boca Raton, Fla., Vero Beach, Fla., and Tampa, Fla., respectively, two additional locations have been announced: 4601 9th St. N, Naples, Fla. - The store will be 38,000 square feet and a conversion of an existing Publix store; and 3451 University Dr., Coral Springs, Fla. - The newly constructed building, on the site of a former Publix, will be 39,000 square feet.

Publix is privately owned and operated by its 143,000 employees, with 902 stores in Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, and Tennessee.
--Jenny McTaggart
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