Edouard Cointreau on the Booming International Cookbook Market

In Global Trade Talk by Olivia Snaije

By Olivia Snaije

Edouard Cointreau’s Gourmand World Cookbook Awards have been a fixture on the Frankfurt Book Fair scene since 1995, when the Awards were launched to draw attention to those who “cook with words.”

Edouard Cointreau

Edouard Cointreau, Creator of the Paris Cookbook Fair

Fifteen years later Gourmand is the network par excellence for “foodie” professionals. Boosted by the fact that cookbook publishing is one of the only sectors still flourishing — countries such as Brazil and China are seeing 30% annual growth.

Gourmand has always sought to highlight cookbooks that don’t necessarily benefit from having a celebrity chef on the cover. “Every country has its own celebrity chef that can be completely unknown outside the specific country,” he notes.

Cointreau now spends close to nine months of the year in China where he runs Gourmand Television, producing culinary travel shows for international television companies. These include a 40-episode series filmed in China called Food Adventures on the Silk Road and numerous other shows that cover much of the culinary world, from Middle Eastern cooking for Ramadan to Mediterranean-style cuisine in Germany and Jabugo ham from Andalusia. He’s also involved in publishing projects, such as a collaborative book between Western and Chinese wine tasting experts.

A recent addition to Gourmand’s activities is the Paris Cookbook Festival (read about it here and here, or watch our video), which was held for the first time earlier this year. The second edition of this event will be held March 3-6, 2011 in the “104” exhibition space in Paris. Cointreau is also planning a gala event at the Eiffel Tower.

Gourmand estimates that 150 exhibitors will participate in this year’s Cookbook Festival, financed, for the most part, by the French tourist office. There will be conferences, two show kitchens, one wine bar and last but not least, a foreign rights center.

“Foreign rights did really well at the festival last year,” adds Cointreau. Small publishers who don’t attend the Frankfurt or London Book Fairs were able to find a place at the bargaining table at last year’s event. And while the cookbooks sold this year were nowhere near blockbuster fiction levels, there were hundreds of small deals, ranging from 2 to 10,000 euros each. “It all adds up— many streams make a big river,” says Cointreau, sounding distinctly Chinese.

He anticipated to double translations from French to other languages in three years but now thinks he’ll manage in less. “The French are difficult to deal with on a commercial level but they are becoming more open because of the crisis,” he says. The Cookbook Festival will also be an opportunity to boost cookbooks from countries that are struggling, such as Spain, where cookbooks are nevertheless doing well. “I like to think that one of the reasons is that people are happy eating and people need happiness today.”

What of the future of printed cookbooks versus the iPad? Cooking blogs are abuzz with news about the iPad serving as a general recipe base, nutrition log, converter and calculator. And it can be wiped clean. Gourmand’s fall magazine issue even features the iPad on its cover.

Cointreau is confident there is room for both: “There is a huge potential for cookbooks on iPads, but all bloggers also want books and so do iPadders. So while new markets are opening for the cookbook, I believe books are here to stay, in part because technology is always becoming obsolete but also because you need something you can hold onto.”

About the Author

Olivia Snaije

Olivia Snaije is a journalist and editor based in Paris who writes about translation, literature, graphic novels, the Middle East, and multiculturalism. She is the author of three books and has contributed to newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, The Global Post, and The New York Times.