Staking a Claim

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Staking a Claim

By Anna Wolfe - 06/01/2011

For example, when I think of the word "artisan," I envision a handcrafted bowl or handmade cheese ... in other words, something that was created by human hands. These days, it's being used to market mass-produced tortilla chips, tacos at fast-food chains and more. (At the Sonoma Valley Cheese Conference in February, attendees, including cheesemakers, retailers and distributors, sounded off for a half-hour on this topic.)

The same could be said about all the words listed above, and then some.

The customers at The Chef's Shop in Great Barrington, Mass., are interested in buying environmentally friendly products.

A growing number of consumers, including myself, are skeptical when they hear these terms. The misuse of the word "green" has spurred the term "greenwashing." But when used in context, these words can be powerful and effective.

For retailers, this is an opportunity. It's up to you to set the definitions or the buying criteria for products you carry in your stores. Then, share the stories of your producers and the unique facets of the products to create a dialogue with your customers.

For example, in this month's retailer profile on The Chef's Shop, owner Robert Navarino tells us about his Green Chef program. Inspired by increasing requests for green and environmentally friendly products, and his personal desire to reduce the impact on the environment, he crafted his own definition and criteria. Taking it one step further, he created an in-store campaign – Green Chef – around this. All qualifying products get the Green Chef hangtag. And best of all, customers know what it means, which affirms his role as the buying authority that he is.

Robert Navarino created an in-store program to help identify green products.

Using a lot of creativity, and very little money, The Chef's Shop has staked a claim on green with its Green Chef program. You could do something similar in your store, highlighting handmade, gluten-free, sustainable or local products. Get creative!

Maybe you've already staked your own claim. What are you doing in your store(s) to connect with customers? Drop me an email. I'd like to hear from you.

The 2011 Gourmet Retailer Awards
Honoring best practices brings attention to the industry and helps everyone learn. Once again this year, The Gourmet Retailer is accepting nominations for Industry Innovators, an annual program that recognizes forward-thinking suppliers and manufacturers.

We're also seeking nominees for our Retailers of the Year awards, including the Kitchenware Retailer of the Year, Retailer of the Year (multi-store chain) and Independent Retailer of the Year, which recognize excellence in retailing.

The deadline for all entries is Aug. 1. You can submit your nominations online at or send me an email at [email protected].