For first look at the much-anticipated American gourmet retailer and cafe Dean and Deluca. It opens on Friday. (ST/Ashleigh Sim)
Singapore's gourmet food market scene has never been bigger.
The latest purveyor of artisanal and specialty products to join the local epicurean scene is American gourmet food retailer and cafe Dean & DeLuca.
Its new cafe and retail store opens at Orchard Central on Friday night.
Indeed, the hunger and demand for all things gourmet has grown over the last five years.
It has been fueled largely by rising affluence and the increasing number of sophisticated diners with discerning palates, coupled with the slew of new upscale restaurants offering premium food items.
The market has, in turn, responded accordingly, sprouting new stores and expanding product lines.
Gourmet food items available in Singapore now range from truffle oil and fleur de sel, a French sea salt, to specialty olives, artisan preserves and boutique pastas.
No fewer than 11 standalone gourmet food retailers and chains that stock anywhere between 100 and over 2,000 products each exist today.
These stores exclude supermarkets, organic markets and online retailers that also offer gourmet items.
Stores such as Oh Deli in Telok Kurau, jones the grocer in Dempsey Hill and Le Bon Marche, which started in Tiong Bahru and later moved to the Bukit Timah area, opened in 2007, and has been increasing their offerings since.
At Le Bon Marche, for example, the number of products has increased by more than 70 per cent since it opened. It now has over 600 products from France, Italy and Spain.
More stores have joined the scene in the following years. The year 2009 saw the opening of new entrant Little Provence in Tanglin Mall and jones the grocer's second outlet in Mandarin Gallery.
Last year, Cut the Mustard in the Greenwood Avenue area off Bukit Timah Road set up shop, while Huber's Butchery, a meat specialist, doubled its gourmet food retail section at Dempsey Hill.
Gourmet and specialty food purveyors say they welcome more players - it makes foodies more aware of the myriad items in the marketplace.
Of the increased competition, Aldo Molinaro, assistant general manager of fine food supplier and retailer Culina, says: 'As with most industries, when there are more players in the market, consumers benefit with more product choices and selection.'
The gourmet supplier, which is now owned by luxury fashion retailer Club 21, was one of the first to open a gourmet food retail outlet here.
Its now-defunct Park House in Orchard Boulevard opened in 2000. Its main outlet is currently located at Dempsey Hill.
Having more players in the market also keeps existing ones on their toes. Andre Huber, 32, executive director of Huber's Butchery, says: 'Competition is getting stronger, which is good as it motivates one to improve.'
Competition is one thing but each gourmet food shop says it has its own identity.
Huber's is a one-stop shop for meats, groceries and gourmet products, while Le Bon Marche is an intimate store and bistro.
Shops such as Cut The Mustard, are more like a 'mom and pop' specialty food store, says owner Lim Hui Chern, 34.
The main idea behind these shops is to make gourmet products more accessible to diners so that they can replicate top grade dishes at home. The items are also an alternative to the mass-produced and more commercial products found in supermarkets.
But supermarkets, too, have been beefing up their gourmet product sections in recent times.
ThreeSixty at Ion Orchard, for instance, offers a selection of imported fine foods including those under labels such as Heston's by famed Fat Duck chef Heston Blumenthal and UK brand Hale & Hearty.
A spokesman for the supermarket, which is owned by Dairy Farm, says the chain saw a need to cater to a growing demand for more international gourmet products. He adds: 'The Singapore scene has become more cosmopolitan and consumers' tastes have become more sophisticated. People are well traveled and are very knowledgeable about gourmet produce and products.'
Restaurants and bistros have also started stocking gourmet items in addition to their menu offerings.
Bistro-store SPR MRKT in McCallum Street sells some of the gourmet products it uses in its cooking, such as vine-ripened tomatoes and the organic soymilk it uses to make coffee.
Casual restaurant Preparazzi in Boon Tat Street offers items such as truffle salt by famed Australian chef Tetsuya Wakuda and mustards flavored with ingredients such as raisins and champagne.
Its chef-owner, Jeremy Nguee, 31, says: 'It is about eating well and eating gourmet ingredients. Offering these ingredients and products is an extension of our service.'
With quality products now available everywhere, from restaurants and supermarkets to boutique stores, one thing is for sure. Singaporeans are spoil for choice when it comes to gourmet and artisan food items.