What’s for tea?

Grocery shopping is in flux, as stores such as Bilder & De Clercq in Amsterdam suggest new ways for customers to choose what they would like to eat

Picture the scene: you are on your way home from work. You fancy cooking something tasty, but don’t know what. After mooching aimlessly around the aisles of your local supermarket for a while, you fall back on a ready meal and arrive home slightly disappointed. Sound familiar? If so, and you happen to live in Amsterdam, perhaps it’s time to pay a visit to Bilder & De Clercq.

Launched in 2013 by Diederik van Gelder and Rogier Leopold, Bilder & De Clercq has two outposts in the city, offering shoppers a new way of thinking about their evening meal. Instead of aisle after aisle of products, the store is dominated by a series of tables, each displaying ingredients for a meal featured on an illustrated recipe card hanging overhead. The idea here is simple: rather than coming to the store with a preconceived idea of what you need, you walk amongst the tables, perusing the various recipes on offer, and then pick the one that appeals.

All the ingredients are available in store (so there are none of those tricky moments when the one thing you need is out of stock, or too obscure to even appear in regular supermarkets) and if you buy them all, you get the recipe card thrown in for free (otherwise it’s 50 cents).

Bilder & De Clercq is not the first kind of store like this – the German grocery chain Kochhaus is based on a similar concept – yet in teaming up with Dutch creative agency …,staat, the company has crafted a chain that places design and creative thinking at its centre to offer up a true shopping ‘experience’ to visitors (a claim that is a stalwart of the contemporary retail press release but rarely plays out in real life).

…,staat worked with Bilder & De Clercq’s founders to create the entire look for the stores, as well as the customer experience. “We were involved in everything,” explains Jochem Leegstra, founder and creative director at …,staat, “including discussions with the chef, about the ease of the meal and the steps of the menu.”

The design agency also proposed the use of large photographs of the finished meals as a way of whetting shoppers’ appetites, and these images have taken on an unexpected life of their own on social media. “It’s an easy way of shopping, but you still have to do the cooking,” continues Leegstra, “and what is really nice – which we didn’t include in our main idea – is that people have the recipe card with the shot of the food when it’s ready, and they want to make it exactly the same, so they put on Instagram a lot of pictures with the recipe card next to their food and say ‘hey, I’m also a chef’.”

As well as selling food ingredients and recipes, Bilder & De Clercq sells a carefully curated selection of other products, including wine to go with the meals, and kitchen utensils such as knives and aprons. The company teamed up with local designers and artisans to stock products that are already loved in the city and to create new ones especially for the stores. The aprons, for example, are supplied by students at Amsterdam’s House of Denim (an ‘innovation campus’ for the denim industry), and locally brewed beers are also stocked, which are not available in supermarkets. In this, they are supporting ‘local heroes’, rather than competing with them, and also making Bilder & De Clercq more of a one-stop-shop. If the company expands outside Amsterdam, which it hopes to in time, products will change with each location. “If they open in Rotterdam, the meals will be the same but the local heroes will be different,” explains Leegstra.

A recent development for the company is the launch of a virtual store within the offices of the Google headquarters in Amsterdam, which offers employees the opportunity to order meals via an interactive screen and have ingredients delivered to the office before hometime. This is only a test at this stage, but it signals a drive towards offering staff easier ways to buy healthy food at work. “It’s only Google headquarters at the moment,” says Leegstra, “but the idea is that this is the future of good food going big.”

This is a key point behind the success of Bilder & De Clercq so far: the food and recipes are tasty and good for you and the concept sits in a space between ready meals, which are increasingly being viewed as a less healthy option, and traditional home cooking, which usually requires some advance planning. The portions that Bilder & De Clercq offers are also indicative of their key audience: most recipes are for one or two people only (children’s meals can be bought separately), making it the perfect store for the busy city worker. 1

bilderdeclercq.nl; staat.com. Credits: Concept/design/visual identity/Website design: …,staat. Food photography: Janneke Kroon. All photographs featured here by Ewout Huibers, …,staat




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