Early Xmas for Gourmet Direct

Deli meats company Gourmet Direct is carving out a promising internet market with surging online sales in the festive season.

Deli meats company Gourmet Direct is carving out a promising internet market with surging online sales in the festive season.

Hastings-based Gourmet Direct, the catalogue-based direct ordering division of Richmond Meats, says it sold more than half its December target in the first week of this month, in large part due to increased orders through its website.

Richmond market division general manager Jenny Myers says interest in the site was a long time coming because of early customer resistance to ordering meats over the internet. With the internet site now delivering over 12% of total sales and growing in the build-up to Christmas through options like gift baskets, Gourmet Direct says it will become a key channel for its niche market.

The company is to invest a significant sum to expand the site’s functionality in the New Year. The company first set up the site in July 1998 using the basic marketplace service offered by Xtra, but has now outgrown the Xtra service and will hire a web developer to re-build the site in January.

Plans for the site include allowing repeat customers to bypass initial catalogue pages and go straight to ordering facilities. It will also include a pre-arranged, account-based bulk ordering system for caterers and chefs in hotels and restaurants, who form a large part of its clientele. This has become viable now hotels are getting connected and the medium has become accepted, says Myers. Myers says Gourmet will soon need a full-time staff member dedicated to looking after the online orders.

Gourmet Direct guarantees delivery overnight and does not trade offshore. The company says its clientele for its premium refrigerated meat cuts, game and condiments are middle- to upper-class men and women with a high discretionary income who are into wine, food and travel. They are technology-savvy and have a computer at home - a demographic match with those who like to pay premium prices online.

Gourmet Direct was bought in 1999 by Richmond, which is the country’s largest meat processor and will be one of the top 40 public companies in the country when it lists on the stock exchange in the first half of next year. Last month, Richmond posted its best result in 70 years – an after-tax profit of $11.7 million. Myers says 2000 is the division’s best year ever.

Gourmet Direct, which was formerly an investor in Ernest Adams, was set up in the early 1990s for hotel and restaurant orders but also for customers who dined on the premium meat cuts and wanted to serve them at home.

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