Gi­ants of the gourmet gal­axy

Progressive Grocer (India) - - Contents - By San­jay Ku­mar

Sales of gourmet and in­ter­na­tional foods are soar­ing and the grow­ing con­sumer in­ter­est presents a real op­por­tu­nity for man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­tail­ers to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves from com­peti­tors through their au­then­tic, gourmetin­spired of­fer­ings.

Despite the thrifty mind­set that per­sists among large sec­tions of In­dian con­sumers, sales of gourmet and in­ter­na­tional foods – marked by unique and ex­cit­ing fla­vor pro­files, high-qual­ity for­mu­la­tions and beau­ti­ful pack­ag­ing – are soar­ing. The trend sug­gests that apart from food con­nois­seurs, even value-minded con­sumers are more of­ten step­ping up to the plate to rel­ish small in­dul­gences. The cat­e­gory has been grow­ing at a steady healthy clip of 20% CAGR and is set to gather even greater mo­men­tum in the days ahead. The grow­ing con­sumer in­ter­est presents a real op­por­tu­nity for man­u­fac­tur­ers and re­tail­ers to dif­fer­en­ti­ate them­selves from com­peti­tors through their au­then­tic, gourmet-in­spired of­fer­ings.

For some years now, the eat­ing habits of In­dian con­sumers have been evolv­ing – from tra­di­tional foods to global food flavours. More than any­time be­fore, a large base of con­sumers now has more so­phis­ti­cated palates, make higher nu­tri­tional de­mands, have the abil­ity to af­ford premium prod­ucts, and the de­sire to enjoy them on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. Mar­keters de­scribe this class of con­sumers as be­long­ing to ‘gourmet’ cat­e­gory. The word ‘gourmet’ it­self is French, and comes from the world of wine. It was orig­i­nally the term for a wine bro­ker, or a taste-vin, one who pur­chased wines for a wine dealer. In the par­lance of food re­tail­ing, ‘gourmet’ is used to de­scribe a con­nois­seur of fine food or some­one with a re­fined palate. Avni Biyani, Con­cept Head, Foodhall, the premium life­style food chain of Fu­ture Group, feels that a gourmet is some­one who en­joys and un­der­stands the finer nu­ances and as­pects of food. “Con­sumers are evolv­ing and ask­ing for ex­cit­ing op­tions in a new and in­ter­est­ing man­ner. As a brand spe­cial­iz­ing in the gourmet for­mat, we are cater­ing to In­di­ans as well as ex­pats who are well-trav­elled and well-versed with fine foods and have a re­fined palate.”

“The In­dian cus­tomer pro­file is wit­ness­ing a rapid change. With over 400 mil­lion Gen-z cus­tomers with bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion lev­els, greater ex­po­sure to in­ter­na­tional mar­kets/ travel, along with the pen­e­tra­tion of smart­phones/ in­ter­net and the me­dia, cus­tomers to­day are more aware than ever be­fore and are open to ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with food,” says Ra­jeev Kr­ish­nan, MD & CEO, SPAR Hyper­mar­kets. “New-age In­di­ans are trav­el­ling more within In­dia and abroad, they are ac­quir­ing and de­vel­op­ing their taste buds for var­i­ous kinds of food. Also, cook­ing chan­nels and re­al­ity cook­ing shows have be­come in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar. Con­sumers want to eat and cook new cuisines more. There is also a large ex­pa­tri­ate pop­u­la­tion in cities such as Delhi, Gur­gaon, Ban­ga­lore, Mum­bai and Pune who are al­ready well-versed with gourmet foods,” ob­serves Avni.

In­dus­try ob­servers agree that over the past few decades, the base of gourmet con­sumers in the coun­try has swelled con­sid­er­ably. They point to the draw­ing cards re­spon­si­ble for the bulge in the num­ber of gourmet con­sumers. “Grow­ing as­pi­ra­tions, glob­al­iza­tion, chang­ing life­styles and growth of the or­gan­ised re­tail sec­tor along with aug­mented pur­chas­ing power of con­sumers are pro­vid­ing im­pe­tus to the gourmet cat­e­gory and to in­ter­na­tional food man­u­fac­tur­ers in In­dia,” says R. Sankara­narayanan, Vice Pres­i­dent Buy­ing & Mer­chan­dis­ing, HYPERCITY Re­tail (In­dia) Ltd.

Ac­cord­ing to Kr­ish­nan, “The ef­forts of In­dian and in­ter­na­tional food com­pa­nies in of­fer­ing price-com­pet­i­tive prod­ucts are help­ing to re­cruit an in­creas­ing num­ber of cus­tomers into the seg­ment.” Cit­ing an ex­am­ple, he points to the num­ber of In­dian brands en­ter­ing the olive oil and pasta seg­ment at com­pet­i­tive prices and also of­fer­ing cus­tomer ed­u­ca­tion. “Such ef­forts bring in the first-time cus­tomers. We are also wit­ness­ing in­creas­ing qual­ity and in­gre­di­ent con­scious­ness, which is spurring cus­tomers to de­mand bet­ter and more.”

As a brand spe­cial­iz­ing in the gourmet for­mat, we are cater­ing to In­di­ans as well as ex­pats who are well-trav­elled and well-versed with fine foods and have a re­fined palate. — Avni Biyani Con­cept Head, Foodhall

— Ra­jeev Kr­ish­nan MD & CEO, SPAR Hyper­mar­kets

By one in­dus­try es­ti­mate, the In­dian gourmet food mar­ket was ex­pected to have crossed USD 2,800 mil­lion by 2015, and is reck­oned to be grow­ing at a CAGR of 20 per cent. Says Vikas D Na­har, MD, Satvikk In­ter­na­tional, which op­er­ates the health food brand Hap­pilo: “The gourmet mar­ket in In­dia is ap­prox­i­mately worth Rs. 15,000 crore and grow­ing at the rate of 20% per year. If we com­pare the In­dian gourmet in­dus­try with that of the US, it is ap­prox­i­mately 10% of the US in­dus­try. This of­fers enor­mous scope for growth con­sid­er­ing the pop­u­la­tion dif­fer­ence be­tween both coun­tries.”

There is no dis­put­ing the fact that In­dia is now an at­trac­tive mar­ket for gourmet and in­ter­na­tional food prod­ucts thanks to the con­stel­la­tion of var­i­ous forces in re­cent years. Con­sumers are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly aware of in­ter­na­tional cui­sine, and their palates are ready and will­ing to taste and test a lot more. As both Kr­ish­nan and Sankara­narayanan ob­serve, the growth in con­sumer in­ter­est and de­mand for cat­e­gory has im­pelled many more for­eign man­u­fac­tur­ers to en­ter the gourmet and in­ter­na­tional food seg­ment and bring their mer­chan­dise to In­dia as well.

SPAR is a very well- known in­ter­na­tional brand and the nat­u­ral choice of many ex­pa­tri­ate com­mu­ni­ties who shop gourmet prod­ucts. With a strong as­sort­ment, great qual­ity, at­trac­tive price and un­beat­able ser­vice, we also be­come a pre­ferred choice for brands to drive their of­fer­ings.

Evo­lu­tion of gourmet cat­e­gory

With so much hap­pen­ing and at stake, there have been sub­tle and sig­nif­i­cant changes in the mar­ket for gourmet and in­ter­na­tional foods cat­e­gory in In­dia. “With in­creased ap­petite of In­di­ans to ex­per­i­ment with var­i­ous cuisines, gourmet food re­tail­ing in In­dia is now mov­ing to the next level,” points out Avni. True to her ob­ser­va­tions, the re­tail space for this food cat­e­gory has wit­nessed rapid ex­pan­sion as well as trans­for­ma­tion in re­cent years. From the tra­di­tional, low-cost prod­ucts dom­i­nat­ing this cat­e­gory un­til about a decade ago, there is now a pro­fu­sion of premium up­grades to prod­ucts such as Wash­ing­ton ap­ples, Aus­tralian Ki­wifruit, Swiss choco­lates, French cheese, Italian pas­tas and more.

Twenty years ago, buy­ing gourmet foods meant — more of­ten than not — in­gre­di­ents, ei­ther raw ma­te­ri­als or pro­cessed foods like olive oil, pasta, and so forth. To­day, it is as likely to mean a ready­made sauce or mari­nade, or in some cases, a readyto-eat dish made from high-qual­ity, of­ten or­ganic in­gre­di­ents us­ing tra­di­tional recipes from the in­ter­na­tional lex­i­con. Prod­ucts such as choco­lates, cook­ies, juices, pasta, olive oil, honey, sauces and salad dress­ings and cer­tain fruits and veg­eta­bles are prime cat­e­gories con­sti­tut­ing the bulk of the gourmet and in­ter­na­tional foods mar­ket in In­dia to­day. Apart from these cat­e­gories, in­gre­di­ents such as truf­fles, ar­ti­chokes, as­para­gus, Aus­tralian lamb and Nor­we­gian sal­mon have found their way into the In­dian food and bev­er­age space.

Con­sumer re­cep­tiv­ity to gourmet prod­ucts has touched off in a big way also be­cause of the dynamic growth of the nat­u­ral and health food in­dus­try and its cross-fer­til­iza­tion with the gourmet food in­dus­try. In fact, this has brought about a greater in­volve­ment in gourmet on the part of main­stream food mar­keters. Grow­ing syn­ergy be­tween the nat­u­ral and gourmet foods in­dus­tries cou­pled with other fac­tors like an ex­pand­ing re­tail dis­tri­bu­tion plus the con­ve­nience of prod­ucts like bot­tled wa­ter, RTD bev­er­ages, bagged sal­ads, and re­frig­er­ated ‘su­per­mar­ket sushi’ are all paving the way for ur­ban In­di­ans to adopt tastes from all over the world.

An­other sig­nif­i­cant de­vel­op­ment fa­vor­able to the growth and ex­pan­sion of the gourmet mar­ket has been the emer­gence of large nat­u­ral food chains fea­tur­ing or­ganic pro­duce. In the past two decades, hun­dreds and thousands of such stores have sprung up across all parts of the coun­try. In their wake, con­sumers have found them­selves fac­ing a plethora of novel choices that did not ex­ist ear­lier. From fresh baked goods, hor­mone-free meats, an as­sort­ment of cheeses from dairies us­ing or­ganic farm­ing prin­ci­ples to a wide va­ri­ety of dry gro­cery prod­ucts, these prod­ucts cut at the in­ter­sec­tion of the nat­u­ral and gourmet foods in­dus­tries. And the stores hawk­ing these prod­ucts re­sem­ble far more the highly vis­i­ble up­scale gourmet in­de­pen­dent gro­cery than the more stark and ster­ile en­vi­ron­ment of the more tra­di­tional health food store. The va­ri­ety of of­fer­ings, the creative mer­chan­dis­ing, the fo­cus on freshly pre­pared foods and even the prod­uct mix serve to draw gourmet and spe­cialty foods con­sumers.

The merger be­tween the gourmet and nat­u­ral/ or­ganic prod­ucts in­dus­tries — now nicely es­tab­lished — has re­sulted in a ex­plo­sion of food styles, op­tions and va­ri­ety, which has def­i­nitely raised the bar of food re­tail­ing in In­dia. Just look at the de­vel­op­ments in the nat­u­ral prod­ucts arena, where man­u­fac­tur­ers have been busy mak­ing organolep­tic improvements to their prod­ucts. It has led to the de­vel­op­ment of bet­ter fla­vors, tex­tures, col­ors, and aro­mas. Soy-based foods and drinks serve as a prime ex­am­ple of “nat­u­ral done bet­ter” and are now ac­cepted by even the pick­i­est palates for re­tail and home shelves.

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