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The soon collapsing delicatessen market

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After visiting the Gourmet Food & Wine fair in Paris a strange feeling remains in my head: that of an endless repetition. I got bored.

From booth to booth noting emerged as really different; everything was alike : exotic spices in showy packagings, Espelette chilli under all possible forms, seafood and their improbable packaging, falsely old-looking wooden shelves made by Chinese children.

A –too- homogenous market

Nothing stands out. Innovations are now all about packaging and less about the content. It’s marketing at its “best” (actually at its worst) when the main activity has become the creation of packages whereas the products themselves are outsourced. We have entered the era of “food marketing companies” which have nothing in common with the food sector itself; those companies (and there were plenty of them at the show) are run by marketers who just put a new label on an existing can and sell it at a premium. What a disappointment !

Where are the true product lovers, those who are passionate about innovation, taste and emotions ?

The two faces of the market: modern marketers vs. old-fashioned craftsmen

True artisans suffer from a rare ambivalence : either they follow and merely copy/paste what false food companies have done (the ones which only change the label and sell at a premium), or they continue to use labels written with Gothic fonts and old-fashioned designs like 50 years ago. Between these two extremes there seems to be nothing; not a drop of inspiration.

The end of the delicatessen market is coming soon

But who should be throw the stone at? If the products sell why not continue ? The customers like it, don’t they?

The new “deli entrepreneurs” (and there were many of them at the fair) are in search of a change in their lives and seem to find, in the delicatessen market, a meaningful project that above all is easy to grasp and doesn’t require previous expertise. There are even franchise chains that are ready to help with turnkey-style solutions and stores. Needless to say the famous old-style wooden shelves are part of the package for the franchisee.

These stores grow on the lasting trend of Top Chef TV shows and the like. One should however be careful … too much of a trend kills the trend and the lack of innovation shown by those shows is for me already an evidence that something is going on and that this trend may soon come to an end.

There is light

Fortunately here and there are still smart people who know how to take advantage of innovative processes to create new products. I’ve met a few of them … This is the future of the deli market : real innovation and real value-for-money. Consumers will soon or later find out that they were fooled and will be increasingly looking for real things. NO MORE FAKE!

At the time I’m writing this post I’m sitting on the train back to Brussels. This bitter assessment of the market will probably generate some comments and some readers will most probably disagree. Well, to be honest I don’t really care. This post reflects what I think and I’m ready to debate constructively with anyone.

Last but not least this post is dedicated to A.M. with whom I had an enriching discussion at the fair and who is a long-time reader of our blog.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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