For the 90s kids, sausages from a cold cut store were the only gourmet food on the table. That was when cheese meant Amul cubes and salad was an assortment of vegetables like carrot, beetroot, cucumber and tomato. Fast forward to 2021, life is all about living with a pantry that gives a selection of cheese, wines, olives, herbs, meats and fruits. Easy accessibility is a post-pandemic phenomenon where suppliers are catering to individual consumers, irrespective of the scale of operations, not only the food and beverage industry, but also homes.
One can argue that upmarket stores had always stocked some amount of cheese and herbs. But did they stock artisanal cheese? Could we ever think of foods without preservatives?
Gayatri Tampi of Meatigo, an e-commerce retail brand providing a range of premium quality raw and processed meat products, says, “The game was changing even earlier; COVID just hastened the process and condensed five years of change into 18 months. Indian consumers have changed; most of them being well-travelled, have expanded food horizons. We are now open to experimenting with international cuisines and flavours, not only when we go out but also as we cook at home. Pandemic has made us question the food quality at some of our favourite haunts, especially when it comes to meats.” The other key factor, she points out, is the realisation of the need to eat healthy..
The availability of gourmet food is also influenced by the shifting gender roles and responsibilities while cooking. Meal preparation is being projected as a gender-neutral activity to be enjoyed with friends and family. Gayatri says, “This has opened our minds to re-imagine how we look at gourmet food.”
The elaborate weekend brunch at restaruants with friends and family also seems to have influenced the weekend menu at home during the lockdown, fuelled by social media feeds rolling out one cooking video after the other; enabling us to try to be on par with the likes of Gordon Ramsay. Gayatri confirms, “Much like at restaurants and malls, we see a hike in purchases on weekends and holidays.”
Prasuma Momos saw a 40% spike in demand during the lockdown even though they launched at the end of 2019. Lisa Suwal, Chief Growth Officer (CGO) with Prasuma Momos says, “In just 18 months we are the go-to momo brand in the frozen section. Our momos are juicier than any other momo; we use a family recipe, hand-picked ingredients that are preservative-free, and the hormone-free meat is not treated with antibiotics.”
‘Not just ingredients, but quality’
Suppliers are happy to customise for clients as against the business of bulk orders. Rishiraj Dev, a Delhi-based supplier, says they were able to sustain their business despite losses only because he sold his stock to friends and discovered a completely new business trend. “It is a shame that we didn’t see this potential when we did big deliveries on bulk supplies to hotels. Consumers seem to be more aware of not just ingredients but quality as well. A lot of supermarkets do stock gourmet meats and cheese. But it is their stocking method that might go wrong.”
Gayatri agrees, “We realised the importance of temperature control and other processes.Even a small temperature change can alter the taste and texture of a product thus spoiling the experience.”
In Hyderabad, chef Shankar Krishnamoorthy sourced Oberoi Delicatessen meats that included gluten-free chicken franks, bacon prime and honey-glazed ham. Shankar says, “When regular diners at F9 started asking for the gourmet meats, I sensed there is a good market for it. Availability met demand in beautiful harmony.”
Consumers who are constantly looking at a selection of gourmet cheese, meats and condiments say this is the best time to get cooking and following recipes from any cookbook without having to tweak them or look for substitute ingredients. . Keerti Kumar a consultant as a software startup says she was pleasantly surprised when a Mumbai-based artisanal cheese brand Spotted Cow Fromagerie even delivered her some halloumi cheese. Such service would not have been possible earlier.”