Fruit and vegetables of every hue neatly laid in pallet boxes at the entrance and aroma of freshly baked croissants greet consumers at India’s newest food store in Mumbai. It boasts of a cellar with over 150 types of cheese, a roastery that offers 12 different coffees, over 100 varieties of tea, meats and seafood from various parts the world and much more. Even a cooking studio to show shoppers how to put all that together into exotic recipes.
Kishore Biyani’s Future Group-owned Foodhall describes its sixth outlet as a “premium lifestyle store” on its website, offering cheese starting at Rs 6,500 a kilo and premium farm produce starting at Rs 1,200 per kg. Spread over 25,000 square feet in four storeys, it’s located in the upmarket Linking Road in Mumbai—India’s most expensive real-estate market. The company says it’s India’s largest such outlet.
The products, according to Jay Jhaveri, chief operating officer at Foodhall, have a target customer: the discerning Indian who travels abroad frequently and has tasted a variety of cuisines. “It’s just a matter of making it available to the customer.”
Biyani looks to capitalise on the growing spending power of Indians. The outlet is in Santacruz that, according to economist Laveesh Bhandari of Indicus Analytics, is among India’s most affluent localities with a higher earning average. Mumbai itself, going by the Barclays Hurun India Rich List 2018, is the preferred city for the wealthy Indians, accounting for nearly a fourth of the nation’s 831 millionaires.
Still, the new store comes when premium gourmet food is easily available online. And rising incomes and cheap data are, according to another Barclays report, expected to double the number of shoppers who buy from Amazon, Flipkart, BigBasket and other e-tailers to 180-200 million by 2020. Even brick-and-mortar chains like D-Mart, operated by Avenue Supermarts Ltd., and Reliance Retail Ltd., run by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, look to marry offline and online retail.
Jhaveri said what Foodhall offers is unique. “It’s the experience that we want to drive for the consumer which isn’t available online,” he told BloombergQuint. “We also offer a range (of products) that are unique compared to other retail stores. Like the tea house.”
The idea is to create a shopping destination for customers to spend more time and not just fill their carts and leave, said Jhaveri. This, according to him, is why they retail products from around the world, including lobsters from Canada to Kochi.
The variety might just work for Foodhall, according to Prashant Agarwal, joint managing director of retail consultant Wazir Advisors. “There is a lack of availability of high-end food products,” Agarwal said, adding: “And there’s a substantial number of people interested in paying for such products.”
The store has a cooking studio where classes are conducted by in-house and external chefs. Not all customers know how to use ingredients in their cooking, said Jhaveri. “The concept of a cooking studio is to help them effectively use what they buy from the store.”
It also has a café at its basement and an Italian restaurant, Sorrentina, on the second floor.
Alpana Parida, managing director of the brand strategist DY Works, said that Foodhall “has got its model right”. The menus at restaurants are changing to include more international choices and Indians are also interested in eating international food, she said. “Indians are also trying to cook what they eat at these restaurants.”
The focus is not just on retailing but presentation. Like the 8x12-foot hydroponic wall to grow green leafy vegetables. Or the burst of colours of food and vegetables at the entrance. There’s even a stall that makes fresh guacamole from avocados.
Agarwal said Foodhall has kept local preferences in mind. The reason for placing farm produce right at the entrance is that colours appeal and Indians always prefer fresh food. “This habit will remain for a long time.”