Since its launch last year in the Spring Branch Management District, TerraMar Imports has been making an online mark on the world of gourmet food sales.

As a direct importer, the company procures its gourmet products from the coasts of Spain and Greece to the hill countries of France and Italy, and beyond.

It sells the products to the public online; local customers can pick up orders as soon as two hours later at the company’s 60,000-square-foot climate-controlled warehouse on North Post Oak Road.

Director of Sales Caroline Laramore shared insights into the company and its strategic positioning for the future. This is a slightly condensed version.

Q: Why did you choose Spring Branch to launch

A: Selecting Spring Branch as the launch location for TerraMar Imports was a strategic decision based on several key factors. Firstly, Spring Branch offers a central and easily accessible location within Houston. Its proximity to major transportation hubs and highways, as well as to the Port of Houston, facilitates efficient distribution and delivery.

Additionally, Spring Branch aligns with our company’s values and mission. It’s a diverse and vibrant community that appreciates and embraces cultural diversity, which is at the heart of our imported European food products. This allows us to create a strong connection with our target audience and foster a sense of authenticity and trust.

Furthermore, the local demographics and market research indicated a strong demand for high-quality European food products in the Spring Branch area. By launching our company in Spring Branch, we can tap into this existing market demand and establish a strong local presence.

Q: What led to the decision to open the business?

A: The decision to establish TerraMar Imports was rooted in a profound passion for European cuisine and culture. The owners, driven by their love for the diverse flavors and culinary traditions of Europe, saw an untapped opportunity in the Houston market.

Extensive research revealed a growing demand for authentic European food products, prompting our team to embark on a mission to provide a comprehensive and genuine experience for local consumers. Their expertise in sourcing from reputable European suppliers, built over years of industry experience, positioned TerraMar Imports as a reliable purveyor of high-quality products.

Houston’s dynamic and multicultural community provided an ideal backdrop for introducing European flavors, and Spring Branch emerged as the strategic launch location due to its central accessibility and convenient transportation links. The decision to establish TerraMar Imports was a harmonious fusion of culinary enthusiasm, market insight, sourcing expertise, and a desire to enrich the local community’s culinary journey.

Q: Who owns it?

A: A group of private investors.

Q: What are the most frequently ordered products?

A: Our customers consistently gravitate towards a select range of products that capture the essence of European cuisine. Our top-selling category is definitely our Amelia’s and Co. line of pasta sauces. Customers are drawn to the exquisite and fresh flavors of a pasta sauce that is made in small batches in Naples, Italy with premium Italian ingredients.

Another highly popular category is cured meats and paella. Our selection of Spanish Jamon Iberico (cured Iberian ham) resonates with customers who appreciate the art of preserving meats and savoring the intricate flavors of 100% acorn-fed hogs and cured using only traditional techniques. Our paella broths, rices, and equipment are perfect for experts and amateurs looking to cook the most traditional dish of Spain at home.

Caroline Laramore with Ruben Dominguez, Fox 26

Olive oils and balsamic vinegars also rank among our top sellers. These essential ingredients are a staple in European cuisine and elevate the flavors of dishes with their rich, aromatic profiles. Customers often seek out unique and high-quality options to enhance their culinary creations and add top health benefits to their diet.

Q: What are the most exotic products sold?

A: Among our most sought-after delicacies are the 100 percent Iberian ham from Spain, renowned for its marbled perfection and rich flavor profile; French truffles products, which are used to infuse dishes with the earthy essence of the French countryside. Other exotic products include snails and specialty seafood such as cockles, mussels, hake roe, and Red Scorpion pate.

Q: How do you stay updated on the latest food trends?

A: Our approach to staying updated on the latest food trends encompasses a multifaceted strategy that ensures we remain informed, innovative, and responsive to changing consumer preferences.

Our procurement team travels to Europe several times a year to visit factories and engage in tastings with the best producers of each region. This close collaboration allows us to tap into their expertise and insights, keeping us informed about emerging products and trends directly from the source. Regular communication with our suppliers ensures we’re among the first to discover new products, ingredients, and cooking techniques that are making waves in European culinary circles.

In addition, we closely monitor international food and gastronomy publications, including magazines, blogs, and online forums. These platforms provide us with a global perspective on emerging trends, helping us identify patterns and shifts that have the potential to resonate with our customer base.

Attending national and international industry trade shows, expos, and culinary events is another key component of our trend-tracking strategy. These gatherings serve as hubs of innovation, where we can learn and further strengthen our relationships with suppliers.

Harnessing the power of social media platforms is essential in today’s digital age. We actively engage with food influencers, chefs, and culinary communities on platforms like Instagram. These interactions offer a real-time window into the latest culinary creations and trends that are capturing the attention of food enthusiasts globally.

To further enrich our understanding of local market dynamics, we make sure to gather feedback from our customers.

Lastly, our dedicated and passionate team is comprised of individuals who share a genuine love for food and an insatiable curiosity about the culinary world. This intrinsic passion drives us to continuously explore, experiment, and innovate, ensuring that we remain not only up to date but also ahead of the curve when it comes to embracing and integrating the latest food trends into our curated selection.

Q: How do you ensure product descriptions are accurate and enticing for online customers?

A: Our approach involves meticulous research into each product’s origins, ingredients, and cultural significance to ensure accuracy. Once our procurement team selects a product or a brand, we receive samples from the suppliers and let the team taste the products. We also have a brand-new test kitchen where we try the products in different recipes and applications, then, our marketing team gathers that information to write the product descriptions.

Test kitchen

We also weave storytelling elements into our descriptions, sharing the rich history behind each product and its role in European cuisine. Imaginative imagery, including high-quality photos, complements our descriptions, allowing customers to visualize the product and its potential uses.

Q: Have you dealt with shipping and logistics challenges in the food and wine industry? Please elaborate.

A: From maintaining temperature control to ensure product freshness, to complying with customs regulations and addressing seasonal delays, we have developed a comprehensive strategy to overcome these complexities. We have a dedicated team of experts that manages, tracks and solves any issues that might happen in the supply chain. Building strong relationships with our suppliers and transparently communicating with customers about shipping timelines and tracking information are central to managing expectations.

Q: How do you handle customer inquiries and complaints related to food and wine products?

A: We have a dedicated customer service team that is focused on delivering exceptional customer service and handling customer inquiries and complaints related to our products. Our team provides clear and transparent explanations, swiftly working towards satisfactory resolutions, whether through replacements, refunds, or suitable solutions.

Q: Any plans to open a retail store or expand in a different way?

A: Currently, our primary focus is on expanding our wholesale (business). Our products are readily available at a variety of retail stores across the city, including notable destinations such as Central Market, Total Wine, and Spec’s Liquors.

(Also) we are dedicated to the expansion of our Italian brand, Amelia’s and Co. Simultaneously, we are actively developing a new brand that features premium-quality vegetables and authentic San Marzano tomatoes from Italy, along with two Spanish brands of Galician seafood and exquisite beans from Spain.