A HOT TREND IN FOOD RETAILING is the advent of small store urban concepts. These stores are each different, aligned with different neighborhoods and the demographics of the people who live there. The stores do, however, share certain characteristics:
In general, these hip, urban, small store formats have an abundance of restaurant-type characteristics. The meat or seafood are mostly pre-seasoned, marinated or rolled with vegetables – all ready to cook easily. Sushi is uniformly big in these concepts and fresh produce is sold, of course, but the excitement is often in vegetable butcher programs where everything is cut, chopped and sliced to order.
Wine and craft beers are an important part of these concepts, and there is a variety of sit-down dining, drinking, and lounge-like settings.
Ethnic fare is substantial and helps consumers explore techniques of the Mediterranean, Asia and American regional cuisines.
The cheese counters are large, their offerings extensive and… here is the shocker: In many of these concepts, specialty cheese is outselling meat.
It’s a revolutionary moment in American retailing as the traditional heart of the American supermarket is being superseded by plant-based foods in the produce department and specialty cheese that is staking its claim to be the centerpiece of culinary interest in 2016.
These “on trend” urban retailers — such as Duckweed Urban Grocery in Tampa, FL, Mariano’s in Chicago and Urban Radish in Los Angeles — attract a young and increasingly sophisticated clientele, though older consumers, with more disposable income, are also important customers.
The richness of specialty cheese enchants as it simultaneously offers a chance for deep satisfaction and keeps the focus on small quantities that do not seem gluttonous or excessive.
Indeed, the assortments are so comprehensive and intriguing that consumers can never be bored as they see the cheese counter as a treasure hunt writ large, a place to explore taste, flavor, sensation and more.
Visit one of these epicurean and experiential retailers and behold the cheese counter. It is, in a sense, a glimpse at the very pinnacle of Western Civilization, an ingathering of differentiated product from across the country and across the sea.
Immerse yourself in this delectable diversity and take a bite, or two, or three — to salute the commitment of those who have celebrated cheese through the centuries and those who toil to create the cheeses of today… and tomorrow.