Artisanal luxury—a niche food trend goes mainstream |India Today Insight – India Today

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“Healthy indulgence” may seem like an oxymoron, but the lockdown inspired a new demand among the growing legion of passionate home chefs, terrace gardeners and hobby hunters. “Post lockdown, customers wanted to purchase products that were healthy yet indulgent. At the same time, they wanted to buy from brands they could trust, from someone who had handcrafted the product with love, like your nani or mother—a friendly face they could associate with the brand,” explains Shruti Jain, co-founder, Kaze Living, a curated online marketplace for organic, artisanal products.

Mass-level commercial brands with complex supply chains did not offer the same level of trust and reliability, and so, artisanal, small-batch, preservative-free products found a more mainstream audience, Jain adds. “Customers became much more open to sustainable, proudly-Indian gourmet products such as ales, dried pasta and bean-to-bar chocolates. New product categories, rooted in building immunity, like kombucha, came up. At Kaze Living, we witnessed a 60 per cent rise in Kombucha sales. As customers asked for new flavours, we launched Orange Basil and Cucumber Kaffir Lime flavours in December, selling over 750 bottles in just one month.”

According to chef Niklesh Sharma, founder, Academy of Pastry & Culinary Arts, the popularity of an artisanal food can be traced to the uniqueness of the product and a brand’s backstory. “To me the word artisanal means the artisan behind the product. It starts with high quality ingredients. Anyone can buy expensive ingredients, but only an artisan can visualise them in their full potential,” he says.

A lot of brands use “artisanal” as a tagline to market their products, but, as Sharma puts it, mass photocopied postcards cannot be compared to a unique piece of artwork. Interestingly, he adds, even big-ticket brands such as McDonalds, Amazon, Target, and Sephora, have joined the artisan trend to help drive their sales. Manufacturers are increasingly incorporating artisanal and craft ingredients into products in response to consumer demand for a homemade feel, but on a larger scale.

Darima Farms, an artisanal cheese-making unit in the Kumaon hills, Uttarakhand

Easy access to online markets, especially curated marketplaces, such as Kaze Living, have helped buyers access local, organic and gourmet artisanal brands. Such curated online stores have also helped small, individual artisanal brands such as Paul and Mike chocolates, a Kerala-based brand, to exclusively launch their chocolates online. “They rely on us to know what the customer wants and how to position their brand in the city. Instead of creating their own physical sales presence in Delhi or risking late payments with supermarket chains, they have chosen online curated e-commerce as their go-to strategy,” says Jain.

In the popular category of chocolates, Paul and Mike-farmers and fermenters (www.paulandmike.co) aims to offer the quality of a Latin-American fine chocolate for the price of a Lindt (Rs 250-350 for a bar of chocolate) by bringing the philosophy of winemaking to chocolate making. “Our USP is that we control the cocoa bean quality right from the cocoa tree through harvesting, fermentation, roasting and all the way to the final bar of chocolate. Our brand identity and personality reflect the artisanal and Indian soul of our brand. We use exotic Indian fruits such as sitaphal, jamun and goldenberry in our chocolates. We also collaborate with other Indian new-age F&B brands to create unique chocolates such as wine chocolate with Sula, stout beer chocolate with Simba and matcha chocolate with Tea Trunk,” says Vikas Temani, business head at the brand.

Artisanal ice cream is another growing category with consumers prioritising “real ingredients”. Emoi, an ice cream brand that launched in 2017, saw a multi-fold increase post Covid. “We see online retailing as one of the prime things driving the artisanal gelato market growth. Thinking outside the cone, we came up with ice cream in PET transparent Jars that are reusable. These were also introduced in a natural range with no artificial colour/ flavour,” says Anant Verma, founder, Emoi chocolates. Emoi’s growing product offering includes signature sticks in quirky shapes and fun flavours, like red velvet cake, double chocolate mousse and cold coffee. It even has vegan options like jamun sorbet and strawberry sorbet.

With the popularity of postbiotics, known for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits in boosting the immune system, sourdough as a heath food category has become highly sought after. Jumana Electricwala (@jumananatural) uses freshly-milled flour at home and Himalayan pink salt in her baking. The bread goes through slow fermentation and results in an artisanal, rustic natural loaf that is gut-friendly and natural. Combining Scandinavian baking styles with unusual ingredients, such as black rice, beetroot, figs etc, she also makes sourdough chocolate cake, cookies, brownies and donuts, cooking and retailing from her home in Mumbai.

Similarly, Donna Pastaia (ladies who make pasta), a team of two passionate home cooks who missed cooking for friends and family during the lockdown and came up with the idea of creating packs of handmade pastas they could send out. Thus began their small business in July 2020. “We use hand-picked ingredients and traditional methods of making and drying the pasta. From fettuccine, pappardelle and shapes in traditional white flour and wholewheat to enriching them with spinach, beetroot, turmeric and activated charcoal, we continue to enhance our range with the seasonal produce available,” says Simran Makkar Ratnakar, co-founder, Donna Pastaia (Donnapastaia.com). They collaborate with brands such as Kaze Living to make a Dragon fruit fettuccine, or an almond flour grain-free pasta with Atmosphere.

Donna Pastaia

With pasta in the picture, can cheese be far from the plate and the palate? Darima Farms (www.darimafarms.com/), an artisanal cheese-making unit in the Kumaon hills of Uttarakhand, was started by Saurabh Vinayak and Arvind Chawla in November 2016. Lockdown took them from a B2B heavy brand to a B2C focussed brand and literally pan-India from just NCR in early 2020. “Artisanal cheese making requires that cows remain grass fed. We ensure that our cows are grass fed and closely monitored to keep a healthy supply of rich and wholesome milk, maintaining strict control over what goes into our cheese, limited to the use of raw milk, vegetarian rennet, Himalayan spring water and fresh organic herbs,” says Chawla. Not only does their cheese reach out to eager and discerning palates, but the brand provides livelihoods to hundreds of villagers in and around Darima. Among their small but startling range of flavours is Himalayan gruyere, Himalayan gouda, Himalayan tomme, chilli bomb and zarai, that take the familiar by surprise.

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Source: Thanks https://www.indiatoday.in/india-today-insight/story/artisanal-luxury-a-niche-food-trend-goes-mainstream-1774022-2021-02-28