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Gourmet in the Kitchen


Over the years the kind of food consumed by Indians has undergone an incredible transformation.The gourmet retail space has witnessed rapid expansion in the past fi ve years, and seen a strategic shift from traditional, low-cost products to premium offerings like Washington apples, Australian Kiwi fruit, Swiss chocolates, French cheese, and Italian pastas. Chocolates, cookies, juices, pasta, olive oil, honey, sauces and salad dressings, and certain fruits are the major categories constituting the bulk of the gourmet market in India. Apart from these categories, ingredients such as truffles, artichokes, asparagus, Australian lamb, and Norwegian salmon have also found their way into the Indian food and beverage space.

The growth of organised small-to-large format/specialty retailing, a surging economy, rising disposable incomes, ever-widening urbanisation, exposure to global cuisines and food habits, newer travel destinations, growth in the specialty food and beverage (F&B) space, and relaxation in regulatory restrictions are the catalysts for the growing gourmet F&B market in India. Estimated to be worth USD 1300 million, the Indian gourmet food market is growing at a CAGR of 20 percent and expected to cross USD 2800 million by 2015.
Indian consumers now have both the willingness and the ability to try new products. Urban residents are, by and large, becoming regular purveyors of gourmet food in India. As the urban populace has higher earnings compared to the rural equivalent, and spend over 40 percent of their income on food alone, this is enhancing the quality of products consumed. Young urban Indians are increasingly experimenting with exotic global products in their kitchens, a trend set by expatriates, returning NRIs, and jet-setting corporate executives. The core target remains the population between 16-40 years which has exposure to varied tastes, uses such products, and is willing to pay a premium for better culinary tastes.
Hotels and restaurants are the other major consumers of gourmet food products in India
offering seasoned international variants such as Peking duck with Ossetra caviar, Kanzuri Shrimp, JamóIbérico Pata Negra (a gourmet ham sourced from acorn-fed pigs), and contemporary sushi in an increasing number of fine-dining, specialty restaurants such as Hakkasan, Le Cirque, Megu, B Bar, etc, with more set to enter the market.
To fulfill this increasing demand, there are enough third-party importers already bringingin these products and thereby facilitating ease of availability. These importers have paved the way for a number of brick and mortar, gourmet-retailing concepts across India. As a result, sales are no longer restricted to only select retail stores across the country. Today, almost all stores ranging from small departmental stores to big retail chains sell imported food products. Wholesale player Metro Cash & Carry has also introduced an international foods section which offers more than 2,000 gourmet food items at its outlets in Yeshwanthpur in Bangalore and Zirakpur in Punjab. Gourmet-focused retail chains are also expanding in a market which includes names such as Nature’s Basket, Nuts & Spices, Foodhall, Le Marche, etc. The rise ofthe online gourmet retail space is another indicator of consumers adapting to newer tastes and lifestyles, and includes names like thegourmetbox.in, yzury.com, deliciousnow. com, among others.
In terms of product demand, consumer preference is slowing shifting and replacing the usual products on the kitchen shelf. Similarly, an increasingly health-conscious consumer segment has propelled the olive oil market in India. Brands like Leonardo, Cola Vita, Bertolli, Fragata, etc, which were only known to fi ve-star hotels a couple of years ago are today easily available through retail outlets. The olive oil market is worth around USD 80 million in value now, and isexpected to grow at 45-50 percent annually over the next fi ve years. While the increase in imports is around 49 percent, the per capita consumption in India is still well below the international average. Health attributes, such as the absence of cholesterol, have driven its consumption by affl uent Indian households. Consumption of Extra Virgin Olive Oil has increased by 35 percent, while that of Pomace Olive Oil has increased by 14 percent, in the past one year. Given the rising aspiration for the finer things in life, urban Indians are also scouting for ways to get a taste of the world in their own kitchens.
The growing popularity of gourmet cheese in India is largely due to the increasing exposure to world cuisines. These, along with olive oil, have truly arrived in the Indian market and are well accepted by the affluent and middle classes. The imported cheese market in India is growing at a rate of 30 percent, and cheeses varieties like Haloumi, Fiore Sardo or Flower of Sardinia, Parmigiano Reggiano, Stilton, Provolone, Mozzarella, Roquefort, Gruyère, Camembert, Feta, etc, can be spotted in retail outlets across the metros.
Pasta is one of the most popular items in the gourmet foods category alongside olive oil and cheese. The universal popularity of Italian cuisine and the emergence of organised retail have boosted consumption of imported pasta in India. Its market size is expected to grow by 25-30 percent annually. Barilla, De Cecco,and San Remo are the most popular brands of imported pastas in the USD 14 to 15 millionworth Indian market.
With rapid urbanisation and changes in eating habits, sauces and condiments have begun to occupy substantial shelf space in Indian gourmet outlets. While mayonnaise, ketchup, and olives are the most popular, others such as chili, soya, gherkins, etc, have also gained wide acceptance. The growing demand for sauces and condiments comes from both individual customers as well as institutions such as hotels, restaurants, and clubs. Heinz, Tabasco, Remia, Barilla, and Prego are some of the famous imported Brands.
Apart from these high volume-driven categories in the gourmet space, there are newer products/ categories that are being rapidly adopted by the Indian consumer. These include fresh/frozen berries, Greek yogurts, preserved lemons, yuzu fruit (an east Asian fruit which is a hybrid mix of mandarin, orange, and lemon), tagines (vessels to cook Moroccan dishes), salad leaves (radicchio, kale, Chinese lettuce, arugula, watercress, etc), grains (Quinoa and Couscous), egg replacements (200 gm pack is equivalent to 66 eggs), gluten-free foods, and processed butter.
The gourmet market is poised to grow thanks to both demand and supply-related forces but is challenged by drawbacks such as limited product/segment awareness, poor management of shrinkage, wastage, and vendor management for proper product replenishment, limited product shelf life, and restrictions on imports and FDI. These challenges have kept many players at bay for a long time; but it is expected that with the opening up of FDI norms, we will now witness the growth of such players