Just like photo filters, gourmet ingredients have become staples to create Instagram-worthy dishes. Susanna Myrtle Lazarus lists some websites that have redefined the way we cook
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the word gourmet? The Oxford Learner’s Dictionary has a suggestion that pretty much covers it: “of high quality and often expensive; connected with food or wine”.
However, the perception of gourmet food is changing, as several online platforms have cropped up over the last couple of years, catering to the growing demand for ingredients and products that are not readily available in your neighbourhood stores or even supermarkets. Not only are these websites expanding the pantry of Indian kitchens, they are also redefining the term ‘gourmet’.
“Contrary to popular belief, gourmet does not just mean expensive or imported food. Gourmet products are products made with superior quality and taste, sometimes hand-crafted, and definitely made with the finest ingredients,” says Janice Shah, who along with Himanshi Vora, founded The Gourmet Box in 2013. She credits the steady growth of their enterprise to world food influences and the evolving Indian palate, coupled with “a lack of organised availability of fantastic ingredients across the country. That, and a boom in convenience-based e-commerce.”
This gap between the growing consumer demand and the available points of retail prompted Tarun Khanna to co-found Foodesto in 2012. “Most of the demand was being met by the unorganised sector. We started our virtual gourmet store to deliver quality products to the consumer’s doorstep,” he says, and defines gourmet food as, “Something that does not form a part of regular consumption patterns, are foods of high quality, and those that are rare to come by. For a Punjabi living in Mumbai, authentic, high-quality Bengali food, or a great meal with Maharashtrian and Gujarati delicacies, may be as gourmet as eating pasta or sushi.”
Both websites deliver across the country, and list products such as cheese, cold cuts, frozen foods, Indian organic staples, international food, exotic and regular fresh produce, breads, artisan foods, dinner kits, kitchen tools, handpicked teas, freshly-roasted flavoured coffees, healthy snacks, artisan chocolates, spice mixes, granolas, preserves, spreads, pantry essentials and grains. While they stock some of the items, others are picked up from vendors, depending on orders. Some of the most requested products on The Gourmet Box are pretzels, chipotle chilli, flavoured marshmallows, quinoa puffs, sushi kits, chilli oil, organic honey and black beans, fondue hampers, baker’s delight hamper and the fast-selling breakfast and tea-coffee hampers.
Apart from the obvious parameters of quality, taste and uniqueness, Janice says that they try to maintain a balance between products that the customers are accustomed to or requesting, and products that are unheard of or new and unique. “Our customers share great feedback on their purchases, enabling us to tweak the platform. Gourmet gifts have been extremely well-received during festive seasons and even for weddings,” she says.
“ Gourmet products are products made with superior quality and taste, sometimes hand-crafted, and definitely made with the finest ingredients ”— Janice Shah
For Raka Chakrawarti, it was her experience in the hospitality industry that made her aware of just how interested people are in ingredients, where they are sourced from, and how they can be used. She started Gourmetdelight last April, catering to the Mumbai market, and earlier this year, scaled up to Pune, with an eye on Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai in the coming months. “Every region is different, and so we need to learn the preferences of each city before we launch. It’s not a one-size-fits-all kind of model,” she says.
Raka’s focus is on showcasing Indian gourmet food. “People need to understand that just because something is imported, it’s not gourmet. Sometimes, the kind of cheeses that customers think is gourmet is easily available in a supermarket abroad. The quality of ingredients we can source from India is really good, and it deserves to be highlighted as a contender among other gourmet foods,” she says.
While bigger e-commerce food delivery brands have a presence across the country, they might not have as much choice in the gourmet section as these smaller players do. Tarun explains, “The response, from a repeat and bill value perspective, has been encouraging. The growth in sheer numbers, however, has been slow. The last 12 months have been very challenging, as a lot of the large e-commerce players have created a negative situation in the market, by operating at unmanageable bill sizes and discounts. However, there is good news: a lot of them have realised that this is an unsustainable model and the competitive environment will become a level playing field.”
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