"Foodies" are dead, it’s now official

October 05, 2009

The surprise many expressed about the shutdown of Gourmet magazine—the foodies’ flagship—makes one think you could knock readers over with an arugula leaf.

The surprise many expressed about the shutdown of Gourmet magazine—the foodies’ flagship—makes one think you could knock readers over with an arugula leaf.

It would be easy to point to the magazine’s near 50% plummet in advertising sales in the first half of 2009 as Conde Nast’s primary reason for leaving its 950,000 circulation monthly in the dust. After all, it’s hard to ignore the advice of high-priced consultants like McKinsey & Company.

In our view at SupermarketGuru.com, this magazine’s death reflects the obsolescence of what it stood for. Twenty to thirty years ago, specialty shops were the haunts of food enthusiasts who couldn’t find what they wanted in supermarkets. But food stores today are so eclectic and high quality that food enthusiasts, as well as people with simpler tastes, can all find pretty much what they seek under one roof.  

Yes, Gourmet readers actually rub shoulders with the hoi polloi. Since everyday people have easy access to food information and education (online, TV, other magazines), they’re empowered, they’re not intimated, and they know how they want to integrate food into their day-to-day lives and special celebrations.  

Yet Gourmet persisted with a tone of exclusivity and food snobbery, as if it takes something special in people to appreciate food. Gourmet failed to evolve even while readers in every economic strata moved toward less pretentious relationships with food.

Conde Nast itself must recognize this long-term cultural shift. Proof is in its continuance of sister title and competitor Bon Appetit, which simply blends better with today’s mainstream tastes of economical, recipe-driven meals. (Conde Nast will reportedly retain Gourmet’s book publishing and television programming, and Gourmet recipes on Epicurious.com.) 

Because we believe today’s biggest food opportunities reside in celebrating and understanding food for the masses, we are unabashed fans of Every Day With Rachael Ray (full disclosure, Phil is a contributor to the magazine as their “supermarket shrink”). Its content isn’t self-important, and it doesn’t delve into rare or difficult ingredients to prepare and eat.

There will probably always be small magazines that cater to foodies, though we believe that market is done. Everywhere we look—in every kind of media and many kinds of stores—food for the masses is the message that rings truest.