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France: boost to growth of the organic industry

by Kai Kreuzer (comments: 0)

Bio City Supermarche, France

Picture: First Bio City Supermarche in France. The decisive engine of growth for the organic market in France is the specialist wholefood trade. In the first half of 2016 it grew by an astonishing 25 %. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

Organics are booming in France:  the semi-state Agence Bio is anticipating growth in turnover of an amazing 20% for 2016. Statistically, 21 farms in France convert to organic every day. At the end of June 2016 France had 31,880 organic farmers. The area of organic land rose in consequence to over 1.5 million hectares, which equates to approximately 6% of all agricultural land.

Almost half a million hectares, i.e. nearly a third of organically managed land, are currently undergoing conversion to organic - which is testimony to the much higher rate of conversion seen in the last three years. You see the same development in wine growing: 300  farms joined the conversion process in the first half of 2016 – 10 more than in the same period in 2015. Running in parallel was the rising demand for organic wine.

Organic Supermarkets in prime locations

BioC Bon in Nice

Picture: Organic supermarkets in prime locations are not uncommon: BioC`bon in Nice. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

With an anticipated 6.9 billion euros in 2016, the turnover of organic food is shooting up by a billion euros. In comparison, organic turnover in Germany came to around 8.9 billion euros in 2015. But you have to bear in mind that the population of Germany is bigger than the population of France by over 16 million.

This growth in turnover means that France is catching up with the leaders in organic marketing in Europe like Switzerland, Denmark, Germany and Austria. In terms of organically managed land, France has overtaken Germany (one million hectares) and, together with Italy, is one of the front runners in the EU. In the lead  is Spain.

Organic creates jobs

Of course, high demand for organic products has a knock-on effect regarding jobs. Agence Bio  estimates that every tenth job in agriculture is on an organic farm. Organic farms are a bigger source of jobs because  they operate more labour-intensively than conventional farms. The proportion of organic farms in the total of number of farms in France is 7.2 % (Germany: 6.4 %).

Organic sector creates jobs

Picture: the organic sector is also interesting for young people. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

The key driver of growth of the organic market in France is the specialist wholefood trade. The growth rate in the first half of 2016 was a massive 25 %, which was much more than in the conventional retail food trade that nevertheless experienced growth of 18% compared with the same period in 2015. Already in 2015 the rise in turnover in the retail organic food trade in France was 14.7 %, which was somewhat higher than in Germany.

The milk sector plays a special role in France. Because of the low price of supplies in the conventional sector the was a lot of interest among dairy farmers in converting to organic. 560 farmers with milk production converted in the first six months of the year. After two years of conversion the volume of organic milk is expected to rise by 30% in 2018.

Naturalia NiceOrganic chains are expanding from Paris out into other centres

For a long time the first organic chains limited their activities to their own region, and this usually meant greater Paris. Now that this region has become very well served with specialist organic stores expansion is taking place increasingly in other regions – Alsace greater Lyon, Bordeaux, Provence and on the Côte d`Azur.

One of the boom regions for organic consumption is the Côte d`Azur. The sunny south-east of the country is number two after Paris. For the last few years, organic supermarkets have been mushrooming along the Mediterranean in big cities like Nice, Cannes, Antibes and the Principality of Monaco. Recently, various national as well as two regional organic chains have joined the local operators of specialist wholefood stores.

Naturalia now has eleven specialist organic stores on the Côte d‘Azur, La Vie Claire eight and BioCbon five. In addition you find the regional actors Marchand Bio (eight stores), domiciled in Grasse, and Marcel&Fils (17 stores, three restaurants), headquartered in Aix-en-Provence. Then come Biocoop and Biomonde stores, managed by independent retailers, that operate as a network in collaboration with their particular wholesaler.

Picture: one of 11 Naturalia outlets on the Côte d‘Azur. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

For independent specialist retailers life is becoming more and more of a challenge

The organic chains are not yet a problem, maintains Romain Baud from Biocity. With his brother Axel (27), the thirty-one-year-old opened the first store in 2011, and then they moved to 300 m² specialist premises in Nice that were at that time the biggest of their kind in the sunny city on the Mediterranean.

They are especially keen on the regional marketing of fresh products, something that for years had been neglected in the south of France. They now offer an excellent selection of fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products, cheese and vacuum-packed meat. “We were the first to operate on this scale, but in the last two to three years no less than a dozen specialist organic outlets have opened in Nice. Naturalia alone has launched eight shops in no time at all!” The size of most of them is 150 - 200 m², because it's extremely difficult to find bigger retail space in traditional town centres in France. However, this specialist in retailing also sees the danger that the wholefood independents could soon disappear if this kind of expansion continues.

Bio City Supermarche, France

Picture: Romain and Axel Baud opened their first Biocity shop in 2011. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

Biocity employs five people and is in the process of building up a delivery service. Older people and big families in particular like having their purchases delivered to their homes. Its main supplier is the regional wholesaler Naturdis in Grasse. So far, Biocity has not joined one of the purchasing networks, although Romain Baud is aware that as competition becomes fiercer purchasing terms and conditions and marketing play an increasingly important role. So he by no means excludes joining one of the countrywide networks.

New specialist stores create a huge boost

The French specialist magazine Bio-Linéaires has for years been investigating the number of new organic shops and organic supermarkets. From the middle of February to the middle of October 2016 (eight months) 125 new wholefood stores with an average 280 m² of retail area were launched. The total retail area came to 34,041 m², which boosted sales of organic food in the specialist trade.

Modern and well managed shops give the organic sector a personal face in France too. According to the figures given by Bio-Linéaires, the number of independents comes to around 15 %. 26 % belong to the purchasing and marketing network Biocoop (33 specialist stores).  The Bio-Monde network, that has been successful in recent years, opened only one store in the same period and did not, therefore, play a significant role in new openings.

The national and  regional organic chains like Naturalia, La Vie Claire, BioCbon, Satoriz, Eau Vive and NaturéO account for approximately 60 %.  Between February and October 2016, six specialist organic stores opened in the Nice region: Satoriz (650 m²), Biocoop 2 (165 m² and 140 m²), Clemenceau (210 m²), Naturalia (290 m²) and La Vie Claire (250 m²).

Eau Vive

Picture: Eau Vive Supermarche. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

We can conclude in summary that the current success of organic food in France has not occurred by chance. Organic food has achieved a high level of penetration in the conventional trade too, and it is becoming easier and easier for the consumer to buy organics. Plus the fact that the density of specialist stores has steadily increased in recent years. You now find organics in school meals and served in pre-school facilities for children. And not least, there is now more and more advertising of organics on television, radio and in magazines. And with a smartphone it means you've got the nearest address for organics in your pocket.




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