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‘Glocal Artisanal’ Culture

May 2017

By Claire Brooks

‘Glocal Artisanal’ Culture

The first warm Saturday of Spring brought every demographic out to the Chicago Farmer’s Market, browsing for over-priced organics and artisanal bread. The Artisanal or Craft trend has been in full swing for some 5 years now (longer if you credit craft beer with its genesis, towards the end of the last millennium) and shows no sign of losing its cachet. Goldman Sachs has called Artisanal a megatrend, but at ModelPeople, we believe that it’s now so embedded it has become a culture. Artisanal brings essential balance to the zeitgeist in our tech-enabled, on-demand age and as a result it has driven brand innovation across categories as diverse as soda, handbags and gin: in the UK, gin sales rose 16% in 2016*1 powered by small-batch premium offerings from over 100 new distilleries launched over the last 2 years.

Craft is a Confused Concept

‘Craft’ has become a confused concept, however. A ModelPeople study*2 with Millennials uncovered several key dimensions: hand-made (or with a sense of the maker’s hand), traditional, healthy, natural and nostalgic. However standards for defining artisanal products have loosened. Etsy has come under fire for allowing sellers to offer third-party manufactured products, and now, if you google ‘artisanal furniture’, you will find items ‘Brought to you from our factory in Central Java’! Now artisanal minimalism has become a hipster-style marker and the newest form of conspicuous consumption.

No longer Local but ‘Glocal’

Originally, ‘local’ was a key dimension of ‘artisanal’, as evidenced by the popularity of Farmer’s Markets and local produce in upscale grocery stores. Now however, artisanal is firmly ‘glocal’, as regional peasant foods jostle to be the next ‘It’ ingredient. ‘Is Harissa the Next Sriracha?’ headlines a 2017 food trends report, ignoring that these products are culturally local versions of the same thing: hot sauce!  Artisanal products have become a marker of the divide between the young, confident global elite and the less successful.

Food & Beverage Culture Transformed

Artisanal culture has transformed the US food and beverage industry. Some of the US’ biggest consumer brand marketing corporations recently announced sluggish sales, in part because their established food and beverage brands have become occasional comfort-food treats for younger and more affluent consumers. Even in India where American food & beverage brand imports became aspirational for the middle class, local producers are now raising the bar with products like artisan chocolate from Mysore.

Rebuilding Cultural Authenticity for Generation Craft?

Traditional brands are looking for strategic answers. Walmart’s new acquisition, online etailer is aligning its brand culture with that of Italian artisanal chef Mario Batali, at hip indie retailer Story in Manhattan.  PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi has announced she wants to help grocery retailers reinvent the center of the store, which has been in decline for several decades, despite efforts by packaged food and beverage brands to make their products appear healthier, more natural and with a sense of hand.

Will food and beverage manufacturers and retailers launch ever more artisanal sub-brands and accept the long-term decline of their traditional brands? Or can they harness the tradition and nostalgia in their DNA  - key elements in artisanal - to rebuild cultural authenticity for Generation Craft, making them crave Campbell’s tomato, a grilled Velveeta and an MGD for dinner?


*1 Wine and Spirit Trade Association

*2 ModelPeople Creative Workshops℠ with 100 Millennials in 3 US regions, 2013

Retail & Dining
Liquor, Beer & Wine
Health & Fitness
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Chicago Farmers Market - Lincoln Park
Indie hip retailer Story in Manhattan
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