Gourmet Thoughts

Gourmet (pronounced /ɡɔrˈmeɪ/) is a cultural ideal associated with the culinary arts of fine food and drink, or haute cuisine, which is characterised by elaborate preparations and presentations of large meals of small, often quite rich courses. The term and its associated practices are usually used positively to describe people of refined taste and passion. For some, it holds a negative connotation of elitism or snobbery. (Wikipedia)

When we first started the WFM back in ’92, we made a pact never to use the “G” word—Gourmet—in reference to our business or our products. It was our belief then, and is still our belief now, that Gourmet implies exclusivity, foods for an elite few. As far as we’re concerned, everyone should have access to great food, whether it has a funny foreign name or a fancy label or is hand-made in small batches by virgin goat herders from Spain. A person can enjoy and appreciate these delicacies whether they identify themselves as a Gourmet or not (and it is a lovely irony that many so-called Gourmet foods actually come from peasant cuisines around the world).

Instead we have always identified ourselves as a store that sells Great food, or Specialty food, with the intention of being as inclusive as possible. So far, our strategy seems to have worked—today our clientele is made up of many local trades people, as well as the well-traveled, well-heeled residents and part-time residents of our community. Young families, high school kids, farmers, carpenters, realtors, lawyers and school teachers, venture capitalists and a rock star make up our group of “regulars”, and all seem equally at home here.

Recently, however, we received a rude shock when our website developer informed us that the single most-used key word in searches for businesses like ours is—you guessed it—GOURMET. Horror of horrors! What were we to do? Our head of Marketing suggested we pepper our site with phrases like “we hate the word gourmet”, thereby getting it out there with a caveat. But then would we be alienating the very people who typed in that word in a search? We would be guilty of reverse snobbery, which is no better than the straightforward kind.

We still haven’t resolved this issue, and there may not even be a solution. For now we’ll maintain the status quo and hope for the best. But if you see the “G” word appear in our marketing anywhere, please know that we did it to provide a service for the Gourmet searchers out there, and not because we’ve changed our stance on anti-gourmet-ism. Food to the People!


Want to buy gourmet brownies?  Check out Donna’s mouthwatering selection of Baked Goods online at WFM Mail Order!

1 Comment

Michael StonerJune 9th, 2010 at 1:25 PM

My guess is that, in food, the early adopters passed “gourmet” by a long time ago and are now searching on “sustainable,” “locavore,” and similar terms. But that doesn’t help the early and late majority types find you (see: http://www.anythingresearch.com/Strategic-Planning/images/technology-adoption-curve.png). It’s probably no comfort for me to say that I don’t see WFM as “gourmet” either.