Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Mid-Week Roundup: Retail

From Turin, Italy to NYC: Unique Italian Food Store Eataly Coming to Manhattan

From Italy with love: Oscar Farinetti in his Turin, Italy Etaly food store. He soon will be able to inspect the melons at his new, smaller Etaly store coming to Manhattan in the spring of 2008.

A unique food retailer based in Turin, Italy, called Eataly, is planning on opening a store in New York City. The upscale food store, which today's New York Times describes as a combination European open-air market, Whole Foods style supermarket, high-end food court, and New Age learning center, will open a 10,000 square-foot market in the new Centria building at 18 West 48th Street in Midtown Manhattan in the spring of 2008.

Eataly's flagship (and currently only) store is a 30,000 square-foot retail food fest located in Turin, Italy. The Manhattan store will be a scaled-down version of the flagship store at 10,000 square feet but will still have many of the features avaliable in the larger Italian store, just in a smaller format. Other stores are being planned for Italy. The first new Italian stores are being built in Milano and Genova, with more to follow in other Italian cities.

Eataly is the brainchild of Oscar Farinetti, a second generation Italian grocer and retailer. Farinetti, who was born into a family of artisanal food producers in the Peidmontese village of Alba, inherited a grocery store, that was originally a small pasta shop, from his father. This launched Farinetti's grocery retailing career. He wasn't a grocer for long though the first time around. Not to long after Farinetti, 53, entered the family grocery business in 1978, he turned the family grocery store into Italy's largest electronics chain, called UniEuro. He sold UniEuro in 2003 for a tidy sum and decided to get back into the grocery business--but in a small scale way with a focus on quality food produced primarily by artisanal producers. Thus Eataly, the 30,000 square-foot food store, was born in Turin, Italy.

Eataly's goal, Farinetti told the Times in today's edition, "is to make high-qualty Italian foods available to everyone, at sustainable prices and in an informal environment where they can shop, taste and learn."

We aren't sure we would call the Turin Eatoly "informal" but it's not overly upscale by U.S. retailing standards either. We like the term "simple upscale" for its design and format. The Turin food store has three levels in its 30,000 square feet, according to the Times. On the main level there are eight specific areas: a butcher shop which specializes in certified Piedmontese beef (considered among the best in Italy), a wood burning bread baking bakery and pizza oven, a cheese center which includes a cheese aging cave, a cured meats deli, fresh fish and seafood shop, a homemade pasta shop, and a fresh vegtable market.

Each of these eight areas is managed by an expert who provides advice, answers questions, offers recipes and other types of food education to shoppers regarding his or her respective area of expertise. In the store's downstairs Eataly features a pub with a large selection of artisanal beers, a wine and tapas bar, and a full-service 50-seat restaurant which uses the artisanal products sold in the store--from the fresh produce and pasta, to the brick oven-baked breads, fish and seafood--in its dishes.

Etaly's Turin, Italy artisinal and specialty food store. We call its design and format "simple upscale."

The top level of the food store is devoted primarily to food education. There's a food library, a computer center, rooms for cooking classes (with kitchens) and wine and food tasting seminars, and a vermouth museum. The museum is a nod to the building's past as a former vermouth factory. Farinetti kept the basic structure of the vermouth factory but completely renovated it into his food artisinal and specialty food store.

Eataly in Turin carries foods and beverages produced only by artisanal producers. Currently the store merchandises foods and beverages on its shelves from about 900 Italian producers. Additionally, 12 producers/suppliers are partners in the store. Farinetti is an investor or primary owner in the businesses of a number of these 12 partners but they run their own companies not him.

Education is a key element throughout the Turin store. Most of the artisanal products have shelf tags which explain the origin of the product, who produces it, where it was produced and other facts. The library, tasting rooms, computer center and other store educational features are all integrated with the selling of products.

The Italian Slow Food organization is even involved in the store. The group, which advocates and educates about eating quality, artisanal, natural and locally produced foods, endorses some of the products in the store with their "Slow Food Snail" logo. Slow Food, which has branches throughout the world, was founded in Italy by Carlo Petrino, who happens to be a close friend of Farinetti. Petrini serves as a consultant to Eataly and was a close advisor to Farinetti in the design and merchandising of the Turin store.

According to the Times, the 10,000 square-foot Manhattan Eataly will be "smaller, more expensive and more selective than the Turin flagship Eataly. A wood burning bread oven will be situated just outside the front door. Fresh beef for the store will be supplied from a herd of Peidmontese certified cattle located in nearby New Jersey. All the store's fruits and vegetables will be sourced locally. Everything else--cheese, cured meats, packaged foods--will be Italian, but because of space limitations and federal restrictions on some food imports, the selection will be much smaller than in Turin," says the Times article. The Midtown Manhattan store also won't have a fresh fish and seafood section.

There will be two in-store eating areas in the Mistown Manhattan Eataly--one specializing in pasta and the other meats--with a total of 100 seats, according to the Times. The Turin Eataly has 10 in-store prepared foods eating places or restaurants. The two in-store eating areas however will serve food all day (in Turin they don't) and also offer prepared meals to go (which they don't do either at the Turin store).

Farinetti told the Times he hopes to "stupefy New Yorkers (with the store) and firmly establish the Eataly brand on the very highest level." He also has bigger plans--Ferinetti says he will build a full-scale replica of the Turin Eataly store in Manhattan's popular meatpacking district in 2011. He told the Times he has already secured a space for the larger store there.

Farinetti also seems to be thinking globally. "With Eataly, my intention was to create a universal format that would work equally well in Afghanistan or Peking or New York or Milan," he says in the Times article. "So far, there is only one such enterprise: it's called Ikea and its furniture is identical throughout the entire world. With Italian food it should be even easier. I believe what we did in Torino could be transplanted anywhere and work just as well," Farinetti says.

We think Farinetti should hold off on that Afghanistan store--at least for the next couple years. However, we see Etaly stores as having much potential in select U.S. metropolitan regions and in many other countries--including throughout Europe, parts of Central America like Argentina, Brazil and Mexico, and parts of Asia. Italian food is a universal. And high-quality Italian food isn't easy to find in many parts of the U.S. and elsewhere globally.

The key we think will be for Etaly to stick to its artisanal roots in the U.S. If not, there are many other retail stores in places throughout the eastern and western U.S., and even in the Midwest, where quality Italian food products can be readily bought by consumers. The key for Etaly in the U.S.--especially in the specialty foods mecca that is Manhattan--will be to stick to unique, premium Italian artisinsal foods and beverages, offer excellent prepared Italian meals, and offer the educational element in the store like the retailer does in its Turin, Italy store. In other words, create excitement in an authentic Italian fashion, centered around Italian foods that aren't readily available elsewhere.

These elements, all orchestrated well, will make Etaly-Manhattan stand out and be differentiated from others in the eyes and minds of shoppers. Manhattan already has Dean & Delucca, Balducci's, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, D'Agostino's and other specialty grocers. Etaly needs to differentiate its store (make it the definition of authentic, artisanal Italian) to succeed in the Big Apple of specialty and ethnic food retailing.

Etaly Resources:

>Eataly also has an online food store. The cyber-store sells many of the artisanal foods sold in its Turin store. You can view and shop the site here.
>Want to learn more about Eataly as a company and its store in Turin? You can do so here.
>Want to view a picture gallery of the Turin, Italy Eataly food store? You can here. Just click where it says "image gallery."
>For a sampling of the types of in-store food education events Eataly Turin holds click here.


Tala said...

what is the brand name of the oven that eataly uses?

Natural~Specialty Foods Memo said...

Suggest you go on their website--it is linked in our story. Find there email address, and write them and ask them. Good luck!