"Demand for organic and vegetarian/vegan products continues to grow in France, and manufacturers and retailers alike are responding with new product launches and dedicated concept stores. Concern for the environment, animal welfare and general health are all leading to higher awareness, making this a high-growth area where distributors cannot afford to be left behind"

For more information see Mintel's report Supermarkets – France, November 2017.

What we’ve seen

  • In January, France's leading grocer, Leclerc opened its first dedicated organic supermarket, in Dijon and in February announced it is to open a chain of 200 such stores.

  • It is also investing in a programme to assist suppliers to convert to organic production methods

  • In November 2017 Auchan opened its first Auchan Bio organic concept store, near Lille

  • Leading specialist retailer, Biocoop increased sales by 15% in 2017 and plans 60 new stores in 2018. It is also exploring options such as catering, snack-bars and e-commerce. 

  • In January, Naturalia (owned by Monoprix) opened its fourth 100% vegan store in Paris

  • In the same month,le Groupement Les Mousquetaires (Intermarché) set up a partnership (with a minority stake) with specialist voluntary chain, Les Comptoirs de la Bio, which has 140 affiliates and plans to expand to 200 by the end of 2018

Organics market grew 16% in 2017

According to l'Agence Bio (the French Organics Association) the market for organic produce grew by over €1 billion to reach almost €8 billion. Between 2011 and 2016 the market has expanded by 82%, an increase of €3.2 billion.  

Part of the reason for this impressive growth is the increasing availability of organics - shoppers can find them easily in all types of grocery store (hypermarkets, supermarkets and c-stores), in their online shopping and at an increasing number of specialist organic stores. 

Figure 1: France: Sales of organic produce by channel, 2012-16
[graphic: image 1]
Source: Agence Bio/Mintel

Some leading food manufacturers are introducing organic versions of their leading brands. Danone for example announced in February that it is to offer organic versions of six of its iconic brands; Blédina, Danone, Danonino, Alpro, Evian and Volvic, adding to its existing organic brands such as Les 2 Vaches and Promavel.  By 2020, Danone has committed to all of its childrens products being organic and that 80% of the ingredients used will be from French production.

Furthermore Danone is also advocating a more sustainable model of production, that of "regenerative agriculture" an approach to food and farming systems that regenerates topsoil and increases biodiversity. Danone is campaigning for all products grown in France come from regenerative agriculture by 2025.

A more knowledgeable and demanding consumer

A number of Mintel trends highlight significant changes in how attitudes are changing and how this is filtering though into consumer behaviours. Bannedwagon for example explores how more and more people are becoming aware of what is in the food and drink they consume and how it is produced, and as a result once niche ways of living and eating are becoming more mainstream. 

This also ties in with Mintel's 2018 Food & Drink Trend, Self-fulfilling Practices, with consumers looking to counter stress and negativity in their lives by focusing on the self-care aspects of food, drink and other consumer goods. 

Figure 2: France: Attitudes towards diet, Q4 2017
[graphic: image 2]
Source: Lightspeed/Mintel

When shoppers were asked about their reasons for buying organic/natural products (in this case, beauty and personal care), health concerns came out top, but still, over half agreed that it was better for the environment and a quarter that it was more ethical. 

Such dietary choices must influence shopping habits, and our research shows that not only is shopping for organics becoming more widespread, but there is also a growing awareness of how shopping and consumption affects the environment. 

Figure 3: France: Grocery shopping habits, Q4 2017
Base: 1,000 internet users aged 16+
[graphic: image 3]
Source: Lightspeed/Mintel

Mintel trend Decline of Deference discusses how consumers are increasingly feeling able to challenge and question established norms, and that there is power in group sentiment. People now have access to a wide array of choices and alternatives, and as it has always been, money influences change. As awareness builds and behaviours change, retailers must look for ways to respond, or risk losing customers to other businesses that meet their needs and match their ethical requirements as well. 

Retailers are engaging too

The specialist organics sector is strong in France. Biocoop, Naturalia (owned by Monoprix) and La Vie Claire are national chains, but there are also several regional chains that are expanding, including L'eau Vive, Natureo and Les Comptoirs de la Bio.

Keen not to miss out on this growth area, the leading grocers are getting in on the act too, expanding their own-label organic ranges and developing dedicated organic store concepts.

Carrefour is the most advanced in this, but Auchan and Leclerc have also made a start. Carrefour has committed to an ambitious programme, Bio 2021, which aims to double its sales of organics over this period. The programme includes working with suppliers to increase organic production and expanding the number of stand-alone Carrefour Bio stores from 14 currently to 150 by 2021.  In the online field, Carrefour acquired Greenweez in August 2016, the leading organic online shop in France, and is reportedly looking at opening stores under the brand name. 

What it means

Consumer awareness of the environmental impact of consumption is increasing, as is insight into issues such as animal welfare and the health implications from consumption of certain food types.  

The organic and vegetarian/vegan markets are set to continue growing strongly and in today's world of enormous choice, consumers have much easier access to the foods and consumer goods that chime with their own standards and ethics. 

The challenge for the established retailers is to respond and adapt to these consumer demands. Attitudes and consumption are changing and the French grocers are sitting up and taking notice. 

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