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Taste has an interview with Ana Yoo, the purchasing director at pricy specialty food retailer Erewhon, in which she lays out the company's process for finding and acquiring new foods for its seven Los Angeles-area stores that have things like "$25 bottles of 'hand-purified, hyper-oxygenated' water and chewy coconut jerky."

You can read it here.

Here's an excerpt:

"The vendor submits product info through our website, and we ask them to send samples to go through our tasting process. Every two weeks, we taste through the products, and because each brand will send multiple flavors or products, it definitely numbers in the hundreds. We approve less than 10 percent of them. Then we go through the tasting process: whether we like the ingredients, the taste profile, the labeling. Nice packaging matters a lot at Erewhon, because I think a lot of people are shopping for the cover sometimes … When we come to our product review, we don’t necessarily look at the pricing. What I’m essentially looking to do in the review process is curate the best product, and the best ingredients, for our customers, so they can trust what they see on the shelf. Price is not what triggers us. It’s more about the ingredients, the look, and all that. Pricing tends to be considered at the later stage [in our process] than for some other grocery stores."

KC's View:

Perhaps the least surprising part of this story is the revelation that price is not a major determining factor in Erewhon's product selection process.  I love a good specialty food store, but for me, Erewhon exists in rarefied air that I find hard to breathe.  I appreciate what they're doing, but I find it a little inaccessible.  But clearly a lot of people find it to be the answer to their prayers … even if many of those people didn't even know precisely what they were praying for.

That's an enormous achievement - providing solutions for problems that people don't know they have, creating answers for questions that people haven't yet asked.

I do like the idea of being so public about the acquisition process … transparency, and the lowering of walls that can separate stores and shoppers, is a very good thing.