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Eau Vive: growth of the regional chain in the east of France

by Kai Kreuzer (comments: 0)

organic supermarket in France
A new store in Pontarlier. Photo Kai Kreuzer



The organic chain domiciled in a suburb of Grenoble was founded by Didier Cotte in 1979 and up to now its growth had been moderate. But everything has changed this year with the addition of six new stores that increased its tally from 32 to 38. One of the new organic supermarkets is in the town of Pontarlier (18,500 inhabitants) to the south-east of Besançon. The new store benefits from being close to the border with Switzerland, Yverdons-les-Bains and Lausanne, that are only 30 and 45 km away.


Swiss shoppers account for a fifth of turnover
organic supermarket Eau Vive in France
A good stock of well presented fresh food. Photo Kai Kreuzer

At weekends a not inconsiderable number of customers come from Switzerland to the 600 m² organic supermarket that offers them everything organic that they could possibly want. The customer spend is often several hundred euros. Since the purchasing power of the Swiss franc has once again improved against the euro since February 2015, for the Swiss shopping in France has become much cheaper. The owner and managing director Bertrand Chevroton estimates that 20 % of turnover is attributable to customers from his neighbour to the east. Chevroton is pleased to have found such a good location with plenty of car parking in a commercial park some 500 m from the centre of town. “The store with six employees has made a good start and we’re getting from 150 to 200 customers a day,” the managing director explains. He anticipates that in the foreseeable future this store will reach the 250 to 400 customer level of the other stores. 

The store is well stocked and what especially catch your eye are the organic fresh food and the big range of products for customers to fill their own containers. As customers enter the store they see in front of them displays of attractively presented fruit and vegetable. Goat cheese, ham and other specialities are the main products sourced regionally. All Eau-Vive stores source semi-baked bread from their own bakery in Grenoble. The loaves and bakery goods are then baked and finished in-store.

Big department for loose goods
organic supermarket Eau Vive in France
Large selection of cereals, flakes, nuts and dried fruit Photo Kai Kreuzer

At the back of the store, where you can look in through big windows from the car park, you find an above-average area (about 40 m²) where you can help yourself from around 150 dispensers and containers. There’s not only a large selection of cereals, flakes, nuts and dried fruit but also fragile products like biscuits. The goods are weighed at the checkout to avoid confusing products and getting the weight wrong. Compared with pre-packed goods, the price advantage for customers varies according to product from 10-20 %.  Loose products account for 7-8 % of turnover. “Twice a day an employee tidies up the loose goods area, since of course there’s always something spilled on the floor,” says Chevroton.



Cosmetics at L´Eau Vive: Photo Kai KreuzerNear the checkouts, you see an almost 100 m² department, somewhat separated from the rest of the store, with shelves for cosmetics, teas, food supplements, non-prescription natural remedies, detergents and cleaning materials. The customers can be seen from the ckeckouts but here they are in a quiet zone where they are not disturbed by other shoppers in the store.

The eco businessman Chevroton already runs an Eau Vive organic supermarket (400 m²) in Besançon in the east of France, that he opened in December 2010 with his partner David Caschili, and another supermarket (300 m²) near Dijon, that he has operated since August 2009. At the beginning of 2016  the Dijon store will be relocated and expanded to 650 m² - over twice its present size. “This move means we can make the loose goods department much bigger than at present and it will then have about 150 lines for customers to choose from.”

Picture: Well stocked cosmetics department. Photo Kai Kreuzer

The group’s turnover: €52m
organic supermarket Eau Vive in France
A large shelf for glutenfree food

The expansion of the Eau-Vive chain is continuing with three new openings in the coming months. However, the precise locations have not yet been announced. So far this year, three stores have been opened: in Seysses near Toulouse (31), the one already mentioned in Pontarlier (25) and in Sillingy near Annecy (74). About half of Eau Vive stores are operated by the company and the others are run by independent franchise holders. The franchise system was not introduced until 2009 and since then it has made a big contribution to expansion.

The turnover in retail of Eau Vive was 52 million euros net in 2014, growth of 17 % compared with the previous year. “We calculate an investment of 400,000 euros for an average store of 400 m²,” says Patrice Monnet, the company’s press officer. The areas of business covered by franchising include marketing, external communications and, above all, joint purchasing. “Accounting, the choice and contact with local suppliers is organised independently by individual Freshness on top. Photo Kai Kreuzerstores,” Patrice Monnet explains. In Lyon they have a joint distribution facility where around 40 manufactures deliver their goods. Another 40 suppliers deliver direct to the stores.

“One of the projects for the coming year is creating a delivery service, so that customers can order a wide range of products via the internet and have them delivered to their homes,” says Bertrand Chevroton referring to his three organic supermarkets. The first stores of the organic chain to offer internet ordering and home delivery were the Eau Vive outlets in Echirolles and Meylan.

Picture: Excellent product signposting. Freshness on top. Photo Kai Kreuzer



The future expansion of the whole Eau Vive chain in planned to spread beyond the eastern region and to cover the whole of France. The plan is also to create a presence not only in the suburbs of Paris, Marseille and Bordeaux but also in Brittany and the north of France. Their focus is on 50 urban centres with over 100,000 inhabitants. Their target is to have 70 specialist organic stores under the Eau Vive flag in the next five years. 

Picture: The offer of over 100 different wines. Photo Kai Kreuzer

Tip: 36 stores can be currently accessed on the internet site:

Company history :




Specialised Food Retail Trade


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