Founded in 1994, Garden of Eden (www.edengourmet.com) is a premier gourmet grocer with six locations in New York and New Jersey. The stores are stocked floor to ceiling with over 10,000 gourmet items, showcased artistically in beautiful displays. This month, our Gourmet Guru Jaime Chailland, director of HR and development, talks about what it takes to be a top-notch gourmet store in the tri-state area.
WholeFoods: The gourmet foods industry is growing by leaps and bounds. In your opinion, what are the top market drivers for this growth?
Chailland: The term gourmet has evolved and expanded to include many categories that weren’t considered “gourmet” before and some that were previously not an identified segment of the food industry. These would include organic, natural, healthy (not just low fat) and then the classic imported.
Also influential is the popularity of food networks that are filled with informational and reality-based shows. The foodie is a very highly sought-after and loyal market segment.
WholeFoods: Gourmet is increasingly intersecting with natural/organic foods. Please tell us about the influence of natural/organic in your store.
Chailland: Natural and organic are often confused as being the same thing, which of course is not true. As customers become more socially aware of these categories, they are increasingly becoming more dedicated to incorporating them into their lifestyle for either medical reasons or, in many cases, a social responsibility belief they support.
Many of our product lines offer traditional, natural and organic items, and we often stock all three types. We respect those that believe in the ethical treatment of animals, that have identified allergy-related illness stemming from certain chemical preservatives, as well as those with religious beliefs that dictate their consumption habits.
WholeFoods: What three product types/categories are currently hot sellers in the gourmet industry? Any predictions for trending categories in 2014?
|African horned cucumber|
Chailland: First, cookies. There are more entrepreneurs in the marketplace with original or family recipes. Consumers like products with a good back story, which I would attribute to the popularity of the food shows.
Next are marinades. International flavors are entering the daily lives of more Americans as a result of a more global market and the increase in international travel and exposure.
Last, fruits. With the popularity of “super” fruits (those that have almost magical health benefits), exotic fruits that are not found in North America are becoming more popular on platters and in recipes.
A trend that you will see picking up momentum in 2014 is yogurt-based products. More and more categories are finding the healing and healthy effects of yogurt.
WholeFoods: What is your secret to making beautiful displays in your store?
Chailland: Making the product the star and not the signage or gimmicks to sell the product is key to creating eye-catching and effective displays. Also, combining items that would naturally go together in an entrée or dinner menu makes the displays more interesting; the cross-marketing/selling is a boost to the bottom line while being a convenience to the shopper.
WholeFoods: In a city like New York where there are so many shopping options, what does Garden of Eden do to maintain its position as a top gourmet store?
Chailland: We are always searching for new and unique products from international and local vendors. They must maintain the high quality and value our customers have come to expect from us. We have a very loyal customer base and feel an obligation to take good care of them and to also introduce them to new items. If they have an event and want it to be the one others are talking about afterwards, they know they can count on us to provide that unique item or flavor that will set them apart. It’s exciting for them and a challenge we enjoy as a gourmet market in such a competitive and vast city as New York. WF
Published in WholeFoods Magazine, November 2013