(March 10) TAMPA, Fla. — In an effort to sweeten its share of the Florida retail grocery market, Florida’s third-largest retail grocery chain has decided a new image is in order.

Kash n’ Karry Food Stores, a 42-year-old company based in Tampa, announced plans March 8 to change its name to Sweetbay Supermarket as part of its continuing plan to revamp the chain’s appeal to customers.

“We aren’t just getting a new name,” said Shelly Broader, president and chief operating officer of the 103-store operation. “We’re inventing a whole new company catering to people who are passionate about fresh food.”

The chain, which is owned by Belgium-based Delhaize Group, will focus more on cultural, ethnic and healthful foods. Plans call for expanding the produce section and enhancing its selection of organic fruits and vegetables.

Company officials declined to reveal specifics.

According to the Fort Myers News-Press, the chain plans to expand its private-label offerings with meat and other perishables under the Sweetbay Supermarket logo. Packaged goods will carry the label of New England retailer Hannaford Bros., also an affiliate of the Delhaize Group.

The decision to reorganize the chain comes eight months after Broader was named president and COO and two months after the company closed 34 stores.

TOUGH BATTLE

Lakeland-based Publix Supermarkets Inc., is the top retailer in Florida, followed by Winn-Dixie Stores Inc., Jacksonville, Fla. The emergence of Wal-Mart, Bentonville, Ark., as a major player in the state and the presence of Boise, Idaho-based Albertsons Inc. and Salisbury, N.C.-based Food Lion LLC also led to Kash n’ Karry’s decision for a new start. Food Lion also is a subsidiary of Delhaize.

“Kash n’ Karry has a tough battle in the Florida market,” said Ken Wyker, president of Wyker Marketing Inc., Charlotte, N.C., and a former Food Lion executive. “But with this kind of strategic plan, I think they’ve got a fighting chance to improve their position in the market and their profitability.”

George Whalin, president and chief executive officer of Retail Management Consultants Inc., San Marcos, Calif., said the decision by Kash n’ Karry was a good one.

“Few companies are willing to admit their concept is failing and fewer still have the guts to completely re-invent themselves,” Whalin said. “The Kash n’ Karry management team is to be applauded for seeing the need to create a totally different business model that will stand out in today’s overcrowded, me-too marketplace.”

The first Sweetbay store will open this fall in the central west coast town of Seminole. Later in the year, four new stores and 12 remodeled locations will open in the Naples-Fort Myers area. The new name will be phased in at all locations over the next three years.