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To define food as luxury and gourmet is to consider not only its taste and quality, but also its focus on aesthetic presentation – be it a dish in a restaurant or a difficult-to-source ingredient in high level packaging. To be gourmet, food is often considered as something which has been collected and manufactured with care, under a high level marketing strategy which attracts the target buyer as someone who looks for ‘premium’ across many aspects of their life. Gourmet and luxury food is also often limited in its reach, only available at specific locations, with its limited presence giving it more of a coveted status in the food market.
While gourmet and luxury food is often characterised by cross-culture fusions and injections of new and unique ideas into otherwise ordinary dishes, it is rarely marketed alongside discounts and deals – largely because the demand on its limited quantities mean that retailers can stock it at high prices and still see sales soar – concluding that the best way of enjoying gourmet and luxury foods at a discounted price is through gift voucher purchases and third party supply chains such as food hampers and even catered events.
Exploring what makes a food product gourmet or luxury
We often hear it said that a product is only really worth what a customer will pay for it. A retailer or brand can tack whatever price they like onto a product, but if the customer will not buy it then a decision has to be taken to review the price point and drop it in line with what the customer is willing to pay. Contrary to popular belief, having something defined as gourmet or luxurious does not simply mean that it is expensive – though this does play a part in how the product is presented to its end customer, and can sometimes be the deciding factor between a standard product and one of the same type but which is infinitely more luxurious – a good example being chocolates or crisps which both operate across vast product comparison scales, from the cheap through to the high end and expensive. In order to achieve the gourmet / luxury status, a food product will have met a specific set of criteria which elevates it away from the norms of everyday supermarket groceries: for example, a cheese product which is derived from the milk of a very specific breed of cow, a steak which comes from a small cut of meat from a beef cow of certain condition, or a chocolate truffle which is handcrafted from the finest ingredients using ancient and long-forgotten methods.
Truffles are another highly regarded example of a gourmet food product, though in this instance the status of the product is a little more interesting – largely due to the fact that it is so widely recognised and used in cooking, and yet has still managed to retain its status as a gourmet and very luxurious food product. What we mean by this is that for the most part, if a product becomes so popular that it starts to be used in cooking across the world and found at the top level of high end supermarket chains on a global scale, it inevitably becomes more affordable as retailers and manufacturers find ways of bringing the product to the mass market – often by cutting corners and obtaining and creating the product in cheaper ways. However, as truffles must be wild harvested and cannot be cultivated according to demand, their rarity ensures that their status as a luxury product is safe in the wake of a mass following.
Meanwhile, in a restaurant setting, this gourmet trend can be seen in the distinct rise in popularity of local gourmet products which have been sourced by local producers, prepared with rare cooking techniques, and served in such a way that the overall customer experience is high end and memorable.
Before we look into some of the retailers who stock products considered gourmet and luxury in the food market, it is also worth noting that a lot of the gourmet status of a product and the way that it is sold comes in the story that is told alongside it. What this essentially comes down to is clever marketing, using the grandeur of storytelling as a way of setting the scene behind the luxury status of a product and creating characters who elevate and support the back story. A great example of this is the concept of the Lindt master chocolatier, using the idea of old methods and career chocolatiers in creating truffles and chocolate products which go above and beyond the rest of the industry. Another example is a fine gourmet cheese product, where the majority of the market campaign will centre around the origin of the cheese and the cow from which it came – using heavy artistic licence in stating that the cheese came from one cow, purely by way of showcasing the simple fact that a gourmet product is one with a history, a story, and a very specialised and often natural production method.
Top retailers and brands in the gourmet and luxury food industry
When it comes to sourcing gourmet ingredients and products on the high street, the most likely retailer names are those high end supermarket and food retail stores, across the limited gourmet sections of more generic supermarkets, and in standalone gourmet food stores which tend to have a very specific following and target demographic which is helped by their location, their marketing, and the experience which they present to their customer base.
The latter retail group is most prominent in the sector, though they tend to operate on a local level and serve their community – with each area having its own gourmet food provider or retailer. London as a city is a great example of a location which benefits from a series of standalone gourmet food retailers, with Central London, West London and East London each boasting their own series of retail names which stock products of varying gourmet and luxurious status from all over the world. Other aspects and details which elevate these stores in particular is the expertise provided to the customer through the in-store staff, accessories and equipment which may be on sale alongside gourmet products in order to provide a seamless service of food and the tools needed to serve it, and the distinctly low key marketing and advertising of the store which gives it a very exclusive feel for those customers who shop there and who know about it.
Moving on to the high end food retailers who are likely to stock gourmet and luxurious food products thrown in with their more generic products, these are the retail names which have a name across a variety of industries – most notably the top level department stores which feature food halls and work with a very selective group of food brands in order to present their customers with food products of the highest status. Examples of these retailers include:
- Fortnum & Mason
- Whittards of Chelsea
- Whole Foods
It is interesting to note that these are also the retailers who are most renowned for their high end luxury hampers and food gifts, creating selections and pairings between different gourmet ingredients and food products, and using the gifting sector as a prime way of marketing and selling their gourmet foods. This as a concept is one which is not limited to the high street – with several ecommerce and online-based food and drink retailers actually operating largely within the gourmet food sector, and using hampers and luxury gift products as a great way of presenting their products to the end customer in user friendly and enticing ways. Examples of these sorts of retailers include:
- Harry & David
- Gourmet Food Store
- Williams Sonoma
And then we come to the generic and everyday supermarket chains, many of which boast gourmet food products either in specific areas of the store or through their various product sector counters – using marketing and presentation to drive these products into the eye of the target customer. A good example of this is the rise in popularity of gourmet cheese and gourmet chocolates, with most supermarket stores keeping their highest level products presented in the correct sections of the store, but pushing them into the eye of the target buyer with additional information about the origin of the product and how it was sourced and made. This often presents as the best way to reach the buyer as it is simply offering them an upgrade on a product that they were looking for anyway. Examples of these retailers include:
- Marks & Spencer Food Hall
- Tesco Finest
Despite the distinct lack of deals and vouchers across most of the gourmet and luxury food sector, supermarkets operate as one of the best locations through which to enjoy discounts and multi buy deals, with different locations benefitting from different deals in line with the season and what products are on trend.
Trends in the gourmet and luxury food industry
With the rise of ecommerce and internet shopping driving the food and drink industry into new areas of focus, the subsequent rise in small businesses and makers has meant that unique and innovative products finally have a platform and a way of reaching their target consumer. Suddenly, gourmet and luxury food is not limited to standalone gourmet stores and counters of high end department food outlets – it can also be found and purchased online, opening the marketplace up to shipments from all over the world as restaurants and end customers alike look to source new products to enhance their cooking. A good example of this can be seen in the chocolate market, with leading luxury brands like Lindt and Hotel Chocolat now sharing their place in the industry with up and coming luxury brands which not only use social media and online platforms to plug their products and share high level testimonials for increased sales, but also reach out into new markets which have previously been underserved – for example the vegan chocolate market.
Another overriding trend in the gourmet and luxury food industry is the shift in the way that consumers are shopping for different products, with brands seeking out and finding gaps in the market which can be filled with products that provide the high level experience of a luxury product, at affordable prices. This is where those supermarket gourmet counters and collections become particularly prominent, creating products which sit firmly at the luxury end of the scale but which are becoming steadily more mainstream in the way that customers can more easily source them – even being able to buy them in their local supermarket.
This also relates to the way in which we are changing our consumer attitude to luxury foods, with the rise in cooking shows and ‘behind the scenes’ documentaries normalising various aspects of the gourmet and luxury lifestyle – so much so that it is creating a demand for products which would previously have been regarded as rare and unattainable to the average buyer. In essence what this comes down to is the way that gourmet and luxury products are both marketed as products to purchase, and showcased and used by means of an introduction to the item – with some of the most effective marketing showing gourmet and luxury food products as little indulgences or ideal gifts.
And finally, we come to one of the most popular modern trends which takes previously standard items and elevates them to gourmet status through presentation and new flavours. How many times have you entered and ordered from a restaurant, to find that the focus of the chef is on elevating very ordinary ingredients to create something luxurious and high end? This is where the power of the gourmet and luxury food industry comes not from the food products themselves, but from the way in which they are put together, creating a very niche industry market of food outlets whereby the gourmet status comes from the dish as a whole. In these instances, we often refer to the Chef themselves as gourmet – creating high end and luxurious dishes which benefit from a culmination of a luxurious experience and a delicious meal.
If you are looking for ways of incorporating gourmet and luxury foods into your life, researching different products and ingredients as part of overall dishes is one of the best ways to benefit from the inclusion of these gourmet products in the consumer marketplace. For information on where you can find the best products in line with vouchers and deals, head to our Gourmet and Luxury Food page.