Home Progressive Grocer Why Avni Biyani thinks Foodhall has a promising future

Why Avni Biyani thinks Foodhall has a promising future

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If you happen to visit Foodhall, the gourmet food store located in the DLF Place Mall in New Delhi, your epicurean senses are sure to come alive. The store exudes a distinct feel of an upscale international grocery and delicatessen with an impressive merchandise that includes authentic, hard to find ingredients from around the country and the world.

The exclusiveness of the store is heightened by the bevy of chefs dishing out scrumptious samples of exotic cuisines from around the world. “A lot of our customers are food lovers who are well travelled and share a preference for global cuisine. So we organise food festivals every month at our stores so that customers can not only sample different kinds of cusisines but also learn to experiment with recipes and learn to cook them,” says , Concept Head, Foodhall, who could be seen busily flitting around the store which hosted a special function last week where celebrity chefs were seen cooking various dainty dishes and inviting guests to sample the gastronomic treats.

Organising food festivals as a to push sales and garner well-earned publicity ceratinly seems to have paid off handsomely in the case of Foodhall. Though Biyani deflects questions about revenue and sales numbers, she projects disarming confidence about the prospects of her stores and the future of gourmet food retail. “We have been adding new products to all our food categories across different sections and have seen a steady increase in the number of footfalls since we opened last year. Our main focus is to delight the customers and we believe that the numbers will come automatically.”

I ask her what she thinks of the growing number of dedicated gourmet online stores and the general apprehension that they would nip out large chunks of business and customers that would have otherwise profited stores like Foodhall. “There is plenty of demand and space to grow for different kinds of formats and both brick-and-mortar outlets and e-commerce models have room to flourish and expand. It’s not actually about physical or online commerce but assisted commerce and personalised products and services, which is the direction that food retail is moving towards,” she says in a matter-of-fact way.

With food and grocery retail market in India currently pegged at worth over US$ 294 billion representing 16% of India’s GDP, Biyani’s confidence seems to be built on hard evidence and hard-nosed logic. With just 3 per cent of this market taken up under organised retail, there is sure a huge room for future growth and expansion of the organised retailers. For gourmet and foreign food food chains, the business outlook is even more appetising considering that the segment offers a high margin as it caters to premium customers conscious of quality, looking for variety and willing to spend.

The challenge, of course, is to be able to stay abreast of the ever evolving needs of customers. As the clientele comprises the upper crust and the more enlightened of the consumer segment, the trick is to ensure that the aisles are stocked with offerings that cater to the indulgences of food connoisseurs.”To be successful in this kind of format, your offerings have to keep evolving, you have to be ahead of the curve and be a trend setter,” Biyani states.

In keeping with the tastes and preference of its customers, the store offers an assortment of fresh and packaged foods, covering international and pan-Indian cuisine. From avocados from South America and over 60 varieties of cheese to freshly made authentic breads by in house chefs, from well stocked fresh produce, dairy and packaged foods to an extensive frozen section and a good delicatessen selling cheese and poultry, the store is a delight for the food savant. The trend currently is towards health-based foods and convenience, ready-to-cook foods as seen in the rising demand for gluten-free, dairy-free, kosher and sugar-free products, say the executives in charge of the store’s operations.

“Currently, 60-70% of our products are imported and 30-40% are domestic,” shares one senior executive of the chain.

I ask if there have been instances of running into problems in sourcing the imported products. “In the past there were instances when vendors for imported items ran into some difficulties in understanding the regulations as some of them were tough to understand. But now things have improved and have started falling into place,” confides another official.

With the hiccups being taken care of and being sorted to satisfaction, gourmet food retailers in India could well be riding the crest of a gathering, sweeping trend for health foods and more personalised choices.

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