Artisan quality has truly transcended trend and gone mainstream, à la Martha Stewart’s recent article on HuffingtonPost.com, “Food is the new Fashion.” In the February 9th, 2011 article, Stewart compares Armani to Batali and coins the term “culinary vogue,” in reference to the many everyday cooks who are using sophisticated ingredients that have become increasingly more available in the last few years. “What’s in your pantry and on your plate have become a form of self-expression,”
Intrigued by this phenomenon is Scion Advisors’ Managing Director Deborah Steinthal, who came to know true artisan quality during her childhood in 1960’s Belgium. Accustomed to seeing 1.5 liter bottles of Stella Artois being delivered to her family’s doorstep in the same quintessential metal carrier with the daily farm-fresh milk delivery, she experienced a major case of culture shock when she arrived stateside in the late 1970’s. Introduced to a world of mass-produced wine, instant coffee, nutrient-lacking white breads and processed cheeses, she was unable to stomach this new cuisine, to say the least.
Thirty years later, and much to Steinthal’s delight, “we are seeing great shifts in American values, culture and eating habits, it’s a flashback to my childhood in Europe,” she said. From America’s now 6,132 farmers markets to $6 cupcakes, to handcrafted beer and wine, gourmet food trucks, to a wave of celebrity chefs, our country is embracing food as a social product more than ever before. Reminiscent of the 12th century European Guild system, American artisan producers are apprenticing with European masters.”
In their report, Scion Advisors states: “the modern day artisan is a symbol for very high quality standards.” The modern day American artisan producer has not only become a master of the old traditions but is integrating new innovations. When asked how he defines the term artisan, renowned San Francisco brewing company Anchor Steam’s new owner Tony Foglio said, “Artisan is 100% style and 100% substance.” For consumers in fact, the experience with the product is as important as the story of how simple, locally produced ingredients from known sources are handcrafted into the best products on earth.
With the United States undoubtedly in a recession, global market research company Nielsen reports that at home dining has soared, driving a national interest in cooking. This silver lining, combined with several social factors (growing eco-consciousness, the Michelle Obama and Wal-Mart all American healthy food pledge, food as art and fashion, and the health and nutrition concerns of aging baby boomers), has created a space for artisan companies to thrive. “Much of this new American food movement relates to the consumers’ fundamental need for safer, healthier and more authentic connections with their environment, people and food sources. There is certainly a back to the land movement well underway,” said Kimberly Charles, founder of San Francisco-based food and beverage creative communications agency Charles Communications & Associates.
Grocers offering artisanal products such as Whole Foods can motivate shoppers to make purchasing decisions for reasons other than price. This is evident in Whole Foods’ nearly nine percent growth, while seven out of the top nine publicly reporting conventional supermarkets recorded negative same-store sales growth in the first half of 2010, according to a report conducted by Gerson Lehrman Group.
Corporations like Starbucks have caught on. They are branding some of their beverages as “handcrafted”
Berkeley’s Peet’s Coffee, is possibly the most famous example of a privately held company-turned-
From specialized ingredients to capital to build businesses, the new artisan producer today has access to more resources than ever before. "We have been encouraged to see several of our clients grow 10-20% during this period of economic upheaval," said Steinthal, “We have been helping these businesses position strategically to take advantage of these new trends. This requires careful understanding of each product's market opportunity as well margin and cash flow-generating potential,” said Steinthal, "Many artisan producers are facing important decisions: to grow or stay small; how to find growth capital; when and how to expand geographically.”
About Scion Advisors
Established in 2004, Scion Advisors are Napa-based business and strategy consultants in the food and beverage sectors, with strong origins in the wine industry. Passionate about providing clients with the means to drive strategy and achieve sustained financial success, Scion Advisors’ proven approach aids business leaders to successfully reposition, grow or prepare for exit. From hand crafted artisan products, to large-scale production for Fortune 500 companies, Scion Advisors has multifaceted experience with agriculturally based products that are marketed through consumer direct, restaurant, retail and distribution channels. Past and current clients include Benziger Family Vineyards, Delicato Family Vineyards, Diageo, Robert Mondavi Winery, Cowgirl Creamery, TastingRoom.com and Winetasting.com, among many others. More information can be found at www.scionadvisors.com.
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Charles Communications Associates is an independent creative marketing communications and public relations firm that helps local and global companies, organizations and non-profits create, build and launch a brand.