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Artisan is the new Quality Standard

16 March, 2011


Napa-based business and strategy consulting firm Scion Advisors releases groundbreaking report

Napa Valley, CA- March 16, 2011: The American food movement has gone mainstream, where “artisan” has been re-established as the new standard of the highest in food quality. From the Food Network’s impressive 10 million viewers in 2010 to the rapidly growing number of food bloggers, everyone is talking about the new American food movement. Recognizing the absence of a comprehensive review, Napa-based business and strategy consulting firm Scion Advisors is pleased to announce the release of “Trend Watch 2011: An American Cultural Renaissance Propels New Food and Beverage Trends,” a far-reaching report that results from their years of experience across food and beverage industries. The report highlights the various social factors that are driving the new food movement, as well as market opportunities and new resources available to food and beverage producers.

Artisan quality has truly transcended trend and gone mainstream, à la Martha Stewart’s recent article on, “Food is the new Fashion.” In the February 9th, 2011 article, Stewart compares Armani to Batali and coins the term “culinary vogue,” in reference to the many everyday cooks who are using sophisticated ingredients that have become increasingly more available in the last few years. “What’s in your pantry and on your plate have become a form of self-expression,” she said.

Intrigued by this phenomenon is Scion Advisors’ Managing Director Deborah Steinthal, who came to know true artisan quality during her childhood in 1960’s Belgium.  Accustomed to seeing 1.5 liter bottles of Stella Artois being delivered to her family’s doorstep in the same quintessential metal carrier with the daily farm-fresh milk delivery, she experienced a major case of culture shock when she arrived stateside in the late 1970’s.  Introduced to a world of mass-produced wine, instant coffee, nutrient-lacking white breads and processed cheeses, she was unable to stomach this new cuisine, to say the least.

Thirty years later, and much to Steinthal’s delight, “we are seeing great shifts in American values, culture and eating habits, it’s a flashback to my childhood in Europe,” she said. From America’s now 6,132 farmers markets to $6 cupcakes, to handcrafted beer and wine, gourmet food trucks, to a wave of celebrity chefs, our country is embracing food as a social product more than ever before. Reminiscent of the 12th century European Guild system, American artisan producers are apprenticing with European masters.”

In their report, Scion Advisors states:  “the modern day artisan is a symbol for very high quality standards.” The modern day American artisan producer has not only become a master of the old traditions but is integrating new innovations. When asked how he defines the term artisan, renowned San Francisco brewing company Anchor Steam’s new owner Tony Foglio said, “Artisan is 100% style and 100% substance.” For consumers in fact, the experience with the product is as important as the story of how simple, locally produced ingredients from known sources are handcrafted into the best products on earth.

With the United States undoubtedly in a recession, global market research company Nielsen reports that at home dining has soared, driving a national interest in cooking. This silver lining, combined with several social factors (growing eco-consciousness, the Michelle Obama and Wal-Mart all American healthy food pledge, food as art and fashion, and the health and nutrition concerns of aging baby boomers), has created a space for artisan companies to thrive. “Much of this new American food movement relates to the consumers’ fundamental need for safer, healthier and more authentic connections with their environment, people and food sources. There is certainly a back to the land movement well underway,” said Kimberly Charles, founder of San Francisco-based food and beverage creative communications agency Charles Communications & Associates.

Grocers offering artisanal products such as Whole Foods can motivate shoppers to make purchasing decisions for reasons other than price. This is evident in Whole Foods’ nearly nine percent growth, while seven out of the top nine publicly reporting conventional supermarkets recorded negative same-store sales growth in the first half of 2010, according to a report conducted by Gerson Lehrman Group.

Corporations like Starbucks have caught on. They are branding some of their beverages as “handcrafted” and are naming products “fruit and cheese artisanal platters.” Frito-Lay® recently launched “Tostitos® artisan recipes.” The next question is whether artisan brands can achieve scale and still maintain their high quality standards.

Berkeley’s Peet’s Coffee, is possibly the most famous example of a privately held company-turned-nationally-acclaimed, publicly held corporation. Peet’s Coffee, established in 1966, has managed to remain true to the quality creed of its original founder. "We have eight roasters at Peet's. They have apprenticed and honed their craft for years, hand-roasting our coffees in small batches using their senses, not machines. We are dedicated to upholding the artisan tradition because it's our mission to bring distinctive, superior coffee to our customers," said CEO Pat O’Dea.

From specialized ingredients to capital to build businesses, the new artisan producer today has access to more resources than ever before. "We have been encouraged to see several of our clients grow 10-20% during this period of economic upheaval," said Steinthal, “We have been helping these businesses position strategically to take advantage of these new trends. This requires careful understanding of each product's market opportunity as well margin and cash flow-generating potential,” said Steinthal, "Many artisan producers are facing important decisions: to grow or stay small; how to find growth capital; when and how to expand geographically.”

About Scion Advisors

Established in 2004, Scion Advisors are Napa-based business and strategy consultants in the food and beverage sectors, with strong origins in the wine industry. Passionate about providing clients with the means to drive strategy and achieve sustained financial success, Scion Advisors’ proven approach aids business leaders to successfully reposition, grow or prepare for exit. From hand crafted artisan products, to large-scale production for Fortune 500 companies, Scion Advisors has multifaceted experience with agriculturally based products that are marketed through consumer direct, restaurant, retail and distribution channels. Past and current clients include Benziger Family Vineyards, Delicato Family Vineyards, Diageo, Robert Mondavi Winery, Cowgirl Creamery, and, among many others. For more information, please visit or contact Deborah Steinthal at Scion Advisors at: 707-246-6830 or: