CEO Talks: 1004 Gourmet raising awareness about Asian food

Rupkatha Bhowmick

One of the advantages of doing grocery shopping at 1004 Gourmet is that you can not only grab a cup of coffee and some bites from Kaffe Bloom but also pick up beauty products from Lamise Beauty. All three brands specialise in Korean products and complement each other, offering an integrated shopping experience to consumers.

“We treat our café adjoining the supermarket, 1004 Gourmet, as an R&D food lab where we prepare new kinds of dishes with different ingredients for our customers’ feedback. I bring back speciality coffee beans from different roasters around the world and serve at a special ‘Travel Beans’ section at Kaffe Bloom; customers can choose their preferred beans, and we make the coffee for them. Nowadays, consumers, even if they are doing grocery shopping, are seeking such experiences,” said Chang Sup Shin, CEO, 1004 Gourmet.

1004 Gourmet

Launched in 2008, as a 2,700 sqft supermarket in Al Barsha, 1004 Gourmet has evolved significantly. Besides the supermarket, 1004 Gourmet also supplies to restaurants; the base has expanded from a couple in the beginning to over 350 today. The current retail space, open since November 2018, is much bigger at 8,300 sqft at the Onyx Tower in The Greens with a dedicated warehouse in Dubai Investments Park (DIP).

“The Greens is a residential area, and our location is on the second floor. We wanted to debunk the myth that second-floor retail doesn’t work since it is not visible from the ground level,” Shin stressed. “In countries like Korea, Japan, China, Thailand, there are a lot of commercial buildings with retail shops located on the upper floors. We wanted to pioneer that trend in the UAE market. Besides, the rent is also cheaper than what it would be on the ground floor.”

While the UAE food & grocery market is competitive, a Korean or Japanese supermarket still falls under the niche category. “The overall food and grocery landscape here is somewhat underwhelming,” Shin observed. “Dubai is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world, with large penetration of international brands. However, that doesn’t necessarily make it a great retail marketplace in our segment. The market still needs high-quality, authentic mom-and-pop stores – a segment we are tapping into.”

“That’s why we didn’t want to restrict our offerings to the Korean consumers alone, even though they are foundation of our supermarket, our loyal audience,” he added. “What used to be 90% Korean dominated supermarket in Al Barsha, is less than 50% now. We have seen the number of the Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and even Indian customers grow; it’s a more eclectic mix now. Our online orders have also picked up pace – from less than 1,000 orders a month in November 2018 to 2,000 now. This growth, in large part, has been driven by our diverse product mix; Asian at the core – with the primary source markets being Korea, Japan, Thailand – but we also have free-range chicken from Oman and work with Dibba Bay Oyster.”

Shin plans to expand 1004 Gourmet’s footprint. He is keen to launch the concept in Abu Dhabi and expand within Dubai. “We are already talking to some developers to get into relevant spaces,” he confirmed. We are hoping to open one-two locations this year. Since we have three different concepts under one roof, we have the flexibility to spin off each concept. In addition, we are also considering franchising in the UAE itself and Saudi Arabia.”

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