Adrien De Montalembert of Inducia Foods & Beverages on the gourmet food industry in India

By Team YS|19th Jul 2011
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This is a guest article by Adrien De Montalembert, CEO of Inducia Food & Beverages, a leading importer and distributor of western foods and beverages in India. Adrien is also the founder of India’s first online gourmet store Deliciousnow.com (click here to read our story on Deliciousnow).


Inducia

Gourmet is a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or Haute cuisine, which is characterised by elaborate preparations and presentations of large meals of small, often quite rich courses. The term and its associated practices are usually used to describe people of refined taste and passion.

The word gourmet finds its roots in the French term for a wine broker or taste-vin employed by a wine dealer. Today, this term encompasses people, products and practices embodying or related to the highest quality of food and beverages. It may also be used to describe a class of restaurant, cuisine, meal or ingredient of high quality, of special presentation, or high sophistication.

Gourmet is an industry classification for high-quality premium foods in the United States. In Europe, the gourmet culture is extremely refined and a large number of new brands and products being launched fall in this category. Specially designed gourmet weekends and travel have gained popularity and Gourmet tourism is today a niche industry catering to people who travel to food or wine tastings, restaurants, or food and wine production regions for leisure.

Though the gourmet market in India is still in its nascent stages the growth pattern is extremely encouraging. Rising incomes, globalization of taste and health and nutrition concerns are leading to an accelerating increase in the Indian gourmet market. This revolution is taking place across the nation as well-travelled Indians are constantly on the lookout to upgrade their standard of living and consumption. Exposure to gourmet food and beverages is translating into awareness and acceptance of this category.

The growth of the retail sector in India is also a huge boost and the growing cadres of food importers bears testimony to the popularity and demand for access to global gourmet specialities at equally enticing retail environments. The range of gourmet foods has expanded over the last few years with constant product innovation and growing consumer awareness. Many gourmet foods that would be consumed only for special occasions a few years ago are gaining popularity and making their way into consumers’ everyday diets. This promises a huge growth in gourmet food market not only in the fresh produce segment but also across other segments.

The need of the hour is to come out with a feasible model to tap the existing potential of this segment. Therefore, primarily the need is to move on further with this business with the correct cost-revenue equation. Most industry watchers believe that the shop-in-shop (SIS) – as opposed to standalone stores – is the most suitable format to experiment and move further with gourmet industry in India.

An increasing number of Indians seem to be cooking up a gourmet storm in their kitchens and this passion for fine food is evident in their shopping lists. The range of products demanded by well-heeled Indians and expats living here has also grown immensely. Any gourmet store worth its Foie Gras must stock cheese sourced from at least seven countries. Oils, sauces, cereals, concentrates, honeys, syrups, nuts, olives, spices, spreads, truffles, vinegars must all come from different countries and all kinds of varieties and qualities must also be available. Apart from a few organised chains, a large number of grocers in prosperous neighbourhoods are also now stocking limited gourmet items.

With the big shift and the rapid growth of the Indian economy over the last 10 years several social changes have become evident. Many Indians who worked abroad have returned back to settle in their homeland. A large number of multi-nationals and foreign companies have established subsidiaries in India. The large number of Indians who are settled abroad also visit India often. All of these groups have led to a strengthening of demand for various gourmet food products. Many items are being imported and this will only increase over time. Items like olive oil are being purchased from the health point of view. Many cheeses, meats and wines are being purchased by those who have a passion for good food. They are also being purchased by the fast expanding expatriate community.

Gourmet brands have to constantly innovate in terms of ingredients and packaging. Quality of ingredients used in gourmet products is of prime importance and the best raw material is sourced from around the world. As an example, Lorina uses only natural and organic ingredients in its Lemonade recipe, like pure and naturally sparkling water from the Vosges or grape skin for the colors. Consumers are more and more aware of what they eat and the era of chemicals and artificial colors is fast fading.

Packaging of fine foods presents a double challenge, as they have to be extremely attractive and highly protective. Gourmet products are often fragile and the packaging needs to be extra protective, especially for purpose of exporting and importing. For Maille, the mustard is packaged in a very solid and hygienic glass jar that reminds of centuries old codes of the brand: the black capsule, the French flag, and the age of the brand.

The key hurdle for gourmet food is storage at -18° Celsius and below; chilled food can be stored at a relatively warmer 3-4° Celsius. Suppliers fight their case with the supply-and-demand argument; the demand in India is not big enough yet to justify new investment and full truckloads every time. The cost of setting up and maintaining complete cold chain integrity is high but is imperative for this segment.

Chefs often have to wait their turn in longer delivery cycles as suppliers try to hold their cost down by combining multiple deliveries on a route. The other challenge for a supplier is to maintain a stock, and keep the supply chain moving. An integrated supply chain that includes on-farm pre-processing and cold chain logistics such as storage facilities, refrigerated transportation, cold storages for multi-product usage alongwith modern refrigerated storage at the retail level are crucial for gourmet items.

Though a few players have been able to overcome these challenges the industry at large is still thwarted by these concerns. There can be no compromise on the quality and freshness of the gourmet products. From the moment a shipment starts until it has reached it’s state-of-the-art storage facility in India, constant monitoring of temperature is essential. Thanks to a system that records the smallest temperature change, we are able to know if the cold chain has been broken at some point. The management of Gourmet foods and Beverages also extends to delivery and special gels and materials are used to maintain the temperature and freshness. Only reefer containers should be used for the transportation and all cold storage facilities should be certified ISO 9001 and HACCP.

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