Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Retail Memo - Specialty Foods: Balducci's Creates Some Value On the High-End With 'Balducci's Own' Specialty Store Brand, Now Including Caviar

Pictured above: The Balducci's store in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood, one of the 10 upscale specialty and epicurean foods markets operated by the gourmet grocer. The Chelsea Balducci's is an urban store. The specialty foods retailer's store's in other places like Maryland and Virginia has a more suburban look to them however.

Upscale Food Retailing in the Recession: Let Them Eat (Balducci's Own Store Brand) Caviar

Bethesda, Maryland USA-based specialty and epicurean foods retailer Balducci's is sticking a gold-plated fork in the eye of the current economic recession as well as adapting in its own unique way by creating a value proposition around its Balducci's Own store brand specialty and gourmet products, which now includes caviar.

The storied specialty foods retailer, which has survived many an economic recession, has introduced a line of caviar under its own store brand -- the "Balducci's Own Brand."

"In this economy, Americans everywhere are scaling back on their holiday menus," says John Coleman, Balducci's wine, cheese and coffee merchant. "However, many party planners, food connoisseurs and epicureans alike are still looking for ways to enjoy their annual holiday luxuries."

There you go. Balducci's is a perfect example of what we've been saying -- that regardless of format or income-level consumer catered to, retailers must create their own unique value propositions in this serious economic recession.

Granted, this is an interesting and rather high-end value proposition in general. But that's Balducci's niche, and always has been. But even the wealthy can use a little relief, even when it comes to caviar prices.

The most value-priced Balducci's Own brand caviar is Farmed California White Sturgeon. It retails for $55 to $299 per ounce through New Year's Day. The caviar regularly goes for $80-$475 per ounce, according to John Coleman.

The caviar comes in three different types: Wild Caspian, which comprises the Sevruga ($199-$1,175 per ounce) and Royal Osetra ($249-$1,500 per ounce) varieties; Farmed International, which consists of the Farmed California White Sturgeon and the first true Russian Sturgeon to be successfully cultivated in Germany for the production of genuine Osetra caviar ($120-$725 per ounce); and Domestic, which consists of salmon caviar from Alaska and paddlefish caviar from the Tennessee and Mississippi rivers (($9.99-$29.99 per ounce and $35-$199 per ounce, respectively).

"With the new line of Balducci's Own caviar, you can still indulge, and very often under $100," says Coleman. "And with the Balducci's brand, you can rest assured that you are getting -- or giving -- the highest in quality."

The 10-store specialty and epicurean foods retailer has been beefing up its Balducci's Own store brand over the last year. The line includes numerous varieties of products in the cracker, cookie, oil, vinegars, condiment, coffee, sauces and others categories. All are priced below comparable domestic and imported manufacturers' specialty and gourmet brands.

Balducci's also offers a second store brand line -- Balducci's Premium -- which offers numerous epicurean food and grocery items across numerous categories. It's priced higher than its Balducci's Own brand.

In addition to operating 10 specialty-gourmet foods markets on the east coast, Balducci's has a significant online shopping and mail order delivery business via its Web site here.

The Balducci's stores are smaller-sized markets but are packed full of fresh and shelf-stable specialty food and grocery products across all categories, including fresh produce, meats, deli-prepared foods, dairy and grocery. The are best described as neighborhood-sized stores packed to the ceiling with specialty foods of all types, in an upscale setting.

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