The outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic across the world has resulted in the temporary closure of thousands of restaurants while many economies have slipped into recession which has severely hit the global demand for premium foods like wagyu beef, bluefin tuna and caviar.
The luxury food industry could be among the worst hit business segments of the world because it relies heavily on restaurants and top hotels for demand for deluxe items from caviar to champagne, most of which have been closed because of strict lockdown measures to contain the outbreak in many countries as well as a global economic slowdown.
Many producers of gourmet food have been forced to cut output even as some producers have lost nearly half their value since the start of the year, there are also some producers who are directly approaching consumers to stay afloat.
While expressing hope and expectations that the easing of lockdowns would be celebrated by people with a bottle of champagne, Jean-Marie Barillere, co-chairman of champagne producers’ lobby CIVC in France, however expects the current difficulties to continue till the end of the year.
“This is really a period that looks like a war time,” he said.
So far this year, there has been an almost 80 pee cent decline year-on-year in seated diners at restaurants in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Australia, Ireland and Mexico, according to data compiled by by OpenTable, an online restaurant reservation service, based on bookings data.
People who are stuck at home because of stay at home orders during a raging pandemic or when they are concerned about their financial situation are much less likely to consume luxury foods. Such consumption is also highly unlikely when people are under clinical social distancing measures when they go to eateries as they reopen.
“People will not want to taste a Chateau Petrus wine, a lobster or caviar under a bell jar,” said Michel Berthommier, managing director of Caviar Perlita in southwestern France. “If you force people to eat in these conditions they will prefer going to fast foods.”
Ole Houe, director of advisory services at agriculture brokerage IKON Commodities in Sydney said that premium foods was “one of the worst hit sectors worldwide”. But given the fact that many countries were in recession, a prompt recovery was unlikely, he said.
A toll on the prices of luxury items has already been inflicted by falling demand.
There has been a 30 per cent year on year drop in price of top quality wagyu beef cuts in Tokyo while a 40 per cent drop in the price of bluefin tuna – considered the best in Japan has also been reported over the same period. On the other hand a 30 per cent drop in the prices of the famed ‘Earl’s melons’ from Shizuoka has also been noted.
“Spring and summer are always low seasons for the caviar market, but if we compare this period with previous years, the sales in Russia are down 50%,” said Alexander Novikov, owner of Russia’s top sturgeon breeding company – Russian Caviar House.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)