Business ideas: Peruvian food business

For those who’ve had Chinese, Indian, Italian or Mexican food to last a lifetime, Peruvian cuisine is coming, replete with start-up opportunities

We’ve ridden the Mexican wave and made Vietnamese Pho our friend, but the next world cuisine set to turn British palettes alight is… Peruvian.

The on-trend among us may already have dined at growing restaurants Lima or Ceviche, both of which have been earning plaudits since opening, but these eateries are at the vanguard. 2015 and beyond look primed to make Peruvian the world cuisine we all want to try.

Let’s be clear, it won’t usurp Chinese, Indian, Thai or even Mexican, which dominate the market for ‘ethnic’ ready meals, accompaniments, and cooking sauces. But while everything else may be on a smaller scale, the opportunity remains considerable. The total UK world foods market was worth £1.7bn in 2013 and is set to hit £2.1bn by 2018, according to Mintel. Peruvian products will no doubt play their part in that growth.

Many among us will have already tried the ‘miracle grain of the Andes’ Quinoa, oft-labelled a superfood. Some will have supped a Pisco Sour cocktail while out on the tiles. And a handful will have chopped an Ají limo chilli pepper to spice up their life.

But such Peruvian staples, alongside avocado oil, huacatay herb, Sacha Inchi nut oil, and the red rocoto chilli pepper remain untried exotic delicacies for the vast majority.

Starting a Peruvian food business: Why it’s a good business idea

As things stand, penetration for Peruvian food remains low. Less than 5% of the UK population have eaten Peruvian food at home, according to figures from respected market research house Mintel, as part of its yet-to-be-published World Cuisines – UK, 2015 report.

Yet 47% who haven’t done so would be interested in eating it at home. It’s worth noting that Brazilian (53%), Malaysian (50%), South African (49%), and Vietnamese (47%) food also figured strongly.

Mintel’s World Cuisines – UK, 2014 report, which didn’t specifically cover Peruvian food, found that 52% would like to try South American food – the highest response against around a dozen cuisines listed in the survey.

What Douglas Faughnan, Mintel’s senior food & drink analyst, highlighted is that curiosity surrounding South American cuisine will become more regionally-focused as the trend grows. With interest in Brazilian food piqued by last year’s football World Cup and the Argentine steak restaurant chain Gaucho now boasting 14 eateries, the continent’s two largest nations’ cultures have begun to seep into the UK public’s consciousness.

The next stage of that lifecycle will see consumers delve a little deeper and embrace another corner of South American culture. And, says Faughnan, flavour trends tend to originate at food service level (i.e. restaurants) before working their way through specialist cooking aids, trendy brand adoption, to being incorporated into family meal occasions, and ultimately mainstream cooking shortcuts.

Peruvian food business opportunities

Due to consumption of Peruvian food still being relatively low, there are still opportunities to supply specialist ingredients and cooking agents, either through import and wholesale distribution or by creating a product.

Testing the market by opening a street food van or stall represents another strong opportunity. The food markets of major UK cities and festivals provide the perfect testing ground for emerging cuisines.

New product development for supermarkets will surely follow in time, but it’s likely we won’t see a mainstream offering in 2015 – and when it comes the likelihood is brands that have established their authenticity will lead the charge.

“One of the main motivators that encourages people to try a new cuisine at home is trying something in a restaurant – then looking for it in a supermarket,” confirms Mintel’s Faughnan.

“There’s an entire range of chilli options commonly used in Peruvian cooking, which British consumers for the main part would never have heard of,” he says, “but chilli marketing has now moved beyond generic chilli marketing to specific types.”

Who else has started a Peruvian food business?

At food service level, Lima and Ceviche certainly have burgeoning reputations. Lima became the first Peruvian restaurant to be awarded a Michelin star in 2013. Last year it launched a second eatery to join its Fitzrovia restaurant in the heart of London’s West End.

Ceviche too has been making huge strides and opened a second concept called Andina dedicated to the healthy superfoods of the Peruvian Andes. It is set to open a second location for Ceviche in trendy Old Street to join its Soho restaurant, complete with an art gallery for contemporary Peruvian artists. Peruvian-born founder Martin Morales, a founding member of iTunes Europe and ex-head of Disney Europe, quit corporate life to follow his passion.

Morales’ cookbook Ceviche was named the Sunday Times Cookbook of the Year and more recently he launched a YouTube TV channel. He’s also in the process of launching a range of Peruvian chilli sauces, joining Rico Picante, a Hertfordshire-based UK start-up, and a record label dedicated to the nation’s music.

Will Beresford is the perfect example of what we expect to see more. Having successfully launched a Peruvian street food stall and hosted pop-ups last year, he is now in the process of launching quick service restaurant Aji Ceviche and at the time of going to press was in the process of sourcing premises.

“I remember feeling mesmerised from the unforgettable flavours of ceviche when I first tried Peruvian food two years ago at Coya,” says Beresford.

“I wanted to create an affordable yet high quality, grab and go style restaurant, ideal for lunchers on the move,” he continues. “I quit my job but with no restaurant experience, I knew I had to learn my trade and spent months working as a runner at a couple of restaurants including a top Peruvian one. Any spare hours were spent trying new ideas and flavours in my kitchen, and having found an amazing Peruvian chef to work with, we set about trading.”

It’s been almost a year and it’s been crazy adventure full of highs and lows. We are now in the exciting process of moving away from street food into a permanent home on the high street.”

Going beyond restaurants, there are hundreds of Pisco producers in Peru, including Don Cesar Pisco Puro, Macchu Pisco, and Barsol Pisco Acholado and just as wine and beer lovers have sought the produce of independent makers, who’s to say there’s not room for purveyors of lesser-known Pisco producers.

There is also potential for chocolate, where Willie’s Cacao now has a Peruvian range to complement its Venezuelan-influenced bars, and clothing where the painfully fashionable Kings Road in London’s Chelsea is now home to Peruvian Connection, an American store started in 1976 and launched here last year.

Ultimately though, for Peruvian to popularise sooner, it’ll take the expansion of chain restaurants in and beyond London, an increase in travel to the region, and a TV chef pinning his or her colours to the mast. With Ceviche’s Morales making inroads to the third, it feels like Peru could soon be coming to a home near you!

Insider opinion

Martin Morales, founder of Ceviche, says opportunities to make Peruvian cuisine mainstream are high:

“People are looking for new experiences and they want to eat better food. They want to cook, touch, see, feel, eat and experience magical things that come from outside the UK that will make them feel great. Peruvian food fits into that perfectly because it’s fresh, healthy and has so many new flavours.

“There has been an explosion of Peruvian food in London and interest around the UK. Ceviche and Andina are our showrooms to our dishes, drinks and ingredients and we can clearly see opportunity in growing these as well as other areas.

“Gastronomy is at the heart of what my team and I do, but so is entertainment and our passion for cooking is matched by that of music, art and events meaning that we are now working on all these areas too. All, with the right approach, have potential but only if we put the customer first, seek excellence in what we do and are authentic.

“We’ve had some fantastic interest from customers since the soft launch through our restaurants of our PK Peruvian Kitchen chilli sauces. Chocolate, coffee and others may also be popular.”

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