Influences for your Grocerant are on the Street

The Lempert Report
January 13, 2017

Many CPG companies have been mining street and truck food offerings for ideas to develop their supermarket products.

Charlie Taverner in his column on might just be offering supermarkets a path to Grocerant success. 

Street food, he writes, has always been an urban phenomenon. A set of historical essays, aptly titled Food Hawkers: Selling in the Streets from Antiquity to the Present has chapters on ancient Rome, Naples in the 1700s, and modern-day Bangkok. The topline is that until recently, rich and poor city folk alike bought most of their food, raw and cooked, from stalls or wanderers on the streets. And many CPG companies including Campbell’s and ConAgra have been mining these street and truck food offerings for ideas to develop their supermarket products. 

But now its time to head inside to find the next big trends. Street food and food trucks are heading inside as the streets are becoming more crowded, and regulated. And the landlord one might suggest is more of a curator than real estate developer, and might be a formidable challenger to traditional food stores and restaurants. Time Out magazine, who’s mantra is that it inspires and enables people to experience the best of the cities they serve, has announced plans to open a marketplace in London in 2017 that will host 17 food outlets, a cooking academy, several bars, a shop and a gallery. Time Out CEO Julio Bruno told Taverner by email that  “We want to offer local restaurateurs, mixologists [that is, cocktail-makers], artists the opportunity to showcase their talent in a different part of town and in a great location that reflects our brand character.” And it’s not Time Out’s first venture, in 2014 they opened a 75,000 sq. ft market in Lisbon and plans are to add another in Porto Lisbon, Miami and New York. 

 First there was Eataly, then Latinicity and now supermarkets need to expand their knowledge to include the likes of Time Out and others who are attracted to selling food and using food as the way to build a relationship. Last year, London Union bought Street Feast, which runs markets in underused buildings and spaces and plans to open 20 local markets by 2020 – and is backed by food world glitterati from Jamie Oliver to Yottam Ottolengh. Their objective is “Transforming lives and communities with the awesome power of street food”.       

Time Out’s writers curate everything, writes Taverner, with each vendor brandishing a four- or five-star review. “The best fine-dining, the best fast-casual – [the journalists] handpick all of that, whether it’s already loved by locals or up and coming.”   

It’s time for our supermarket buyers and merchandisers to follow suit. Where is David Karin when we need him?