Eataly will bring its innovative Italian food concept to Toronto

Sources tell us that Eataly will open its first Canadian food concept in Toronto, likely in the city’s Yorkville area. Steph Chiu has written this analytical piece about Eataly and how it will affect local food retail if it opens in Yorkville.

By Steph Chiu

Yorkville is a popular destination in downtown Toronto, known for its upscale shopping, restaurants, and hotels. Gourmet grocery stores have also emerged in recent years as consumers have started to demand higher-quality food products. Currently, shoppers in the area can visit 

Pusateri’s Fine Foods (57 Yorkville Avenue), the Bloor Street Market (Manulife Centre, 55 Bloor Street West) or Whole Foods Market (Hazelton Lanes, 87 Avenue Road) for all their grocery needs. However, consumers will soon have a fourth option to choose from: Eataly, a new Italian food concept coming in the near future to the Yorkville district.

  Toronto's Yorkville area

Toronto's Yorkville area

  Typical Eataly store interior [  Image Source  ]

Typical Eataly store interior [Image Source]

Eataly is an Italian food market that first opened in Turin, Italy in 2007. Eataly was founded on Oscar Farinetti’s desire to combine elements of a lively, open environment with a learning centre to create a unique atmosphere where anyone could shop, taste, and learn about high-quality Italian foods.

Eataly goes beyond the traditional shopping experience and offers more than your average fine grocery retailer. Inspired by the European food-hall concept, its massive stores are populated with tasting areas and gourmet restaurants to complement the upscale food offerings. The intention is for customers to taste the artisan products, learn about them from educated staff, and then buy the ingredients to recreate Eataly’s restaurant food at home, at fair prices.

  One of Eataly’s many in-store dining areas [  Image Source  ]

One of Eataly’s many in-store dining areas [Image Source]

Not only do Eataly stores have dedicated departments for nearly every category of food imaginable (including unique departments like Chicago’s Nutella bar), they also offer a variety of unique classes that range from cooking lessons to wine tastings.

Overall, Eataly boasts 27 locations around the globe, with stores in Italy, Japan, the United States, Dubai, and Turkey. Eataly only recently entered the North American market with its two stores in the United States: a 50,000 sq. ft. emporium in New York City, and an even bigger 63,000 sq. ft. landmark in Chicago. The NYC store has quickly become one of the most visited tourist sites in the city and achieved nearly $70 million in sales in its first year alone. The larger Chicago location, with over 10,000 products and 23 eateries, was so popular in its first week that it had to shut down

because it ran out of food. Crowds continue to populate both stores daily, eager for a taste of the unparalleled gastronomic experience. If the success of these two stores is any indication, Eataly’s arrival in Toronto will likely be just as well-received.

The Eataly Chicago map shows just how big and extensive the store is in both size and product offerings [Image Source]

  Pusateri's Yorkville store exterior [  Image Source  ]

Pusateri's Yorkville store exterior [Image Source]

As we mentioned above, Eataly’s entrance into the Yorkville district will put it in direct competition with Pusateri’s and Whole Foods (and to a lesser extent the Bloor Street Market and local Rabba grocery outlets). But how do they compare to Eataly ?

  Pusateri’s olive oil bar [  Image Source  ]

Pusateri’s olive oil bar [Image Source]

Pusateri’s Fine Foods is a Toronto-based family business known for leading the revolution in fine foods in Toronto, opening its first store in 1986 on Avenue Road. Its stores offer an extensive selection of products from around the world, including their renowned olive oil bar, and are designed to resemble a European marketplace in ambiance. There are currently three Pusateri’s locations in Toronto: Avenue Road, Yorkville, and Bayview Village.

  Whole Foods Yorkville, store exterior [  Image Source  ]

Whole Foods Yorkville, store exterior [Image Source]

Whole Foods Market is a well-known chain of grocery stores that originated in Austin, Texas in 1980. Whole Foods is a purveyor of fine natural and organic foods and has strict quality standards for the foods it allows to be sold in its stores (for example, Whole Foods does not sell anything containing ingredients named on its “Unacceptable Ingredients for Food” list). The store design resembles a standard grocery store environment, but with a higher-quality selection. The chain expanded to Canada in 2002. There are now 371 locations worldwide, with stores in the United States (355), Canada (8), and the United Kingdom (8). Whole Foods expects to open another 40 Canadian stores in the coming years.

  Whole Foods Yorkville store interior [  Image Source  ]

Whole Foods Yorkville store interior [Image Source]

In comparing the two grocery stores to Eataly’s store concept, it would appear that Eataly has the edge with its comprehensive value proposition. While all three are very comparable in product quality and variety, neither Pusateri’s nor Whole Foods have added services like restaurants and classes, and the atmosphere inside an Eataly store is undeniably unique. Consumers will no doubt be intrigued by what Eataly has to offer.

We are very excited for Eataly’s imminent arrival in Toronto, which we predict will cause quite a disturbance in the growing luxury grocery scene. Although further details cannot yet be released, stay tuned for more updates on this developing story and to find out exactly when and where it will be located.

Industry note:

The specialty food industry in Canada has been growing rapidly in the last decade, with 7.5% growth from 2012 to 2013 according to Stats Canada , making it the fastest-growing segment in food and beverage retail. Although the definition of 'specialty food' varies considerably, from "anything that is above average in quality or price" to "products that exemplify quality and innovation...often made by small manufacturers, artisans, and entrepreneurs," it is clear that this is a distinct and emerging segment of the grocery industry. 2012 report by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada outlined consumer trends in healthy, natural, and unique products, driven by increasing ethnic diversity, as key reasons for the growth in specialty foods. Specifically in the gourmet and artisan food space, demand continues to grow as consumers become more affluent as well as interested and informed about their food choices.

Read more: Whole Foods Brooklyn vs. Eataly Chicago

Steph Chiu is an Honours Business Administration student, currently attending the Ivey Business School at Western University


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