Driving traffic to the bakery represents a crucial mission for Hispanic grocery stores, and the holiday season offers a key time of year to boost exposure and increase bakery sales. A variety of successful strategies and tactics are employed by stores across America.

In Milwaukee, WI, four-store operator El Rey Food Markets promotes holiday specials throughout the year on Facebook and through its website, elreyfoods.com. Cakes are a major drawing card during the summer and fall, and demand for breads and sweet goods drives traffic particularly well during the winter months.

“Our cakes are very popular to go along with piñatas that customers take along to the parks,” El Rey Food Markets owner Ernesto Villarreal says. “Once fall and winter start up, so does the bakery sales. We promote coffee and Mexican hot chocolate, which goes wonderfully with our Mexican bakery.”

Carlos Jacobo of Jacobo’s Grocery in Omaha, NE, says fall football season presents a terrific opportunity to promote corn tortilla chips and salsa. Jacobo’s produces their fresh corn tortillas and tortilla chips, as well as salsa, at their Omaha grocery store. “We were the first in the city to have our own tortillería and bakery in the store,” Jacobo says. “It it’s not one thing, it’s the other that draws customers to our store.”

As the December holidays arrive, Jacobo’s Grocery promotes traditional Hispanic sweet goods in addition to other products that families demand for the holidays. “For Christmas and the holidays, we sell fresh dough for customers to make their own fresh tamales at home,” Jacobo says. “December 24 is the busiest day of the year for us. We feel good about our role in helping our customers share important traditions with their families.”

Andy Arza of Pan Dulce Bakery in Lincoln, NE, points out the wintertime is their biggest sales period of the year, so it essential they plan ahead for the holiday rush. The bakery will sell from 1,000 to 2,000 bolillos per day, depending on the time of year. Their bakers monitor inventory at all times throughout the day. Whenever a half rack of bolillos is sold, they make another batch.

What’s interesting nowadays is that the evening rush, especially during the holidays, is as big as the morning rush at Pan Dulce. “At 8:30 p.m., we’ll see a line outside the doors of people still buying lots of breads,” Arza says. “They like to come in late at night to buy their breads for the morning. At 8 p.m., we do our last bolillo production run.”

Bolillos are a signature item at this Lincoln bakery, and increasingly customers are buying filled bolillos, which are stuffed with cream cheese and either jalapeños or chorizo. Filled bolillos account for 5-10% of their total bolillo sales. Their business is mostly retail, but wholesale sales to corporate cafeterias and local restaurants represent a healthy percentage of business. Arza estimates that their bakery produces about 3,000 pieces of sweet bread per week, in addition to teleras to numerous local restaurants that use for sandwich breads.”

Based in Texas, Fiesta Mart has maintained a consistent approach of showcasing a variety of fresh products for a multicultural customer base in an authentic “Fiesta” atmosphere. Fiesta Mart services customers in 50 neighborhoods in Houston, Austin and Dallas/Fort Worth. With that type of reach into so many different communities, it is essential they offer a broad scope of fresh baked goods that appeal to many cultures.

Ron Thompson, bakery merchandiser for Dallas/Fort Worth, describes bakery items such as tres leches cakes as “crossover” items because these products are loved by both Hispanics and non-Hispanics. “We have a large of number of non-Hispanic customers buying our tres leches cakes,” he adds. “We have many crossover items because we are a multicultural company. At Fiesta, we’re blessed because we have a great customer base in bakery. Quality is the main driver, especially with bakery products.”

Empanadas are another crossover item at Fiesta Mart. At their Fort Worth store, they offer six flavors: queso (cheese), calabaza (pumpkin), manzana (apple), piña (pineapple), camote (sweet potato) and guayaba (guava). Bilingual signage indicates the flavors in both Spanish and English. “Some stores have four varieties, and others have eight varieties of empanadas,” Thompson explains. “Pineapple, cheese and pumpkin are our mainstays.”

Fiesta Mart employs a number of merchandising strategies to drive impulse sales, as well, including instore announcements when hot bread is coming out of the oven. “We have hot bread coming out of the oven at 6 in the evening,” Thompson says. “We have hot bolillos every two hours, and a twice a day fresh tortilla program seven days a week. We try to make everything as visual as possible. We try to find any way we can to serve the customers.”