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Natexpo 2018: Successful kick-off in Lyon

by Kai Kreuzer (comments: 0)

People walking in front of the Natexpo exhibition ara.
Satisfied visitors at Natexpo in September 2018. © Kai Kreuzer

For the first time, the French trade show Natexpo was held in Lyon on 23rd and 24th September. In addition to the Paris edition, which has been held every two years in October until now, the Lyon edition turns Natexpo into an annual event.

With 9,600 visitors, the two-day fair can be regarded as a great success. Of the total number of visitors, 11 % came from 58 countries abroad to attend the new event in central France. Exhibitors and visitors declared themselves very pleased with their experience. What may well have contributed to the success was the comprehensive supporting programme that, located on ten special areas distributed round the exhibition hall, proved to be a great attraction.

At a total of 700 stands, trade fair visitors were able to find out about the latest trends, product innovations and services in the field of natural food, natural cosmetics, dietetics and natural goods. The spaciously laid out show covered an exhibition area of 15,500 m². The exhibitors came from 19 countries, including Germany with 20 and Italy with 19 companies.

Integrated trade show events

Roughly 60 events were distributed across all the different areas at the trade fair - whereby, the forum dealing with organic developments was one of the busiest. It was organized and run by the specialist magazine Bio-Linéaires. "This year there is a clear sense of uncertainty in the specialist trade, as conventional trade is increasingly adopting specialist trade concepts," commented Antoine Lemaire, editor-in-chief at Bio Linéaires. Further forums were offered on the development of the organic sector (by trade fair operator Natexbio), natural cosmetics (Cosmébio association), food supplements (Synadiet association) and organic ingredients (Ingrébio).  

Five people, three of them holding up the magazine Bio-Linéaires.
Colleagues of the magazine Bio-Linéaires presenting their product. © Kai Kreuzer

"In order to meet the increasing demand and the increasing variety of products, the supply of organic ingredients has increased enormously in recent years," said Gaëlle Fremont, founder of the online magazine Ingrébio. As she pointed out, however, there are some contradictions in customers' expectations. On the one hand, today, ingredients are supposed to be in organic quality and as rich in nutrients as possible, but they also expect them to come from a regional and sustainable source as well. Plus, it goes without saying, they should be free from pesticide residues. This often creates a dilemma for manufacturers, because the goods they use have often been sourced abroad.

Gaëlle Fremont



"In order to meet the increasing demand and the increasing variety of products, the supply of organic ingredients has increased enormously in recent years."

– Gaëlle Fremont



Conventional retail interest in entering specialist trade

Behind the scenes and on the stands there was a particularly lively discussion about financially powerful groups in the conventional trade being interested in entering the specialist trade. This strategy involves two different concepts. Whereas Les Mousquétaires with their independent retail partners, who operate Intermarché stores at the moment, are proposing future cooperation with the organic purchasing association Comptoir de la Bio, the E.Leclerc chain would like to open organic stores immediately under its own name. They are obviously less interested in the specialist trade concept than in sourcing manufacturers' brands that are reserved exclusively for the specialist trade and that are held in particularly high regard by consumers.

At the trade fair, Jean-Baptiste Chapelle – head of the development department at Comptoir de la Bio, who is in direct exchange with Les Mousquétaires – confirmed that since the beginning of this year, the conventional retail group had acquired a minority share in the purchasing and marketing association and is now co-financing the enterprise. In the next two to three years, 200 organic supermarkets with 500 – 1000 m² of retail space are planned to be added to the currently 150 owner-managed Comptoir stores. Half of this expansion will be stores of conventional retail partners who either rededicate their Intermarché stores (around 2000 in France) or build new stores. By the end of 2018, the plan is to have 50 of these projects up and running.

A man with a microphone talking while standing next to a presentation screen.
Jean-Baptiste Chapelle presenting the purchasing and marketing association Comptoir de la Bio. © Kai Kreuzer

Intermarché has so far not been noted for having a huge organic range in its stores. During the presentation at the trade show there was a revealing picture of an Intermarché store on the left and 25 metres away on the right a large-scale Comptoir de la Biospecialist store. “On the one hand we want to create a really modern impression and on the other a natural look with a lot of wood for our fixtures and fittings, a bright ambience and a big selection of loose goods,“ said Chapelle. The association, founded in 2012, currently has 30 employees, cooperates with 80 manufacturers’ brands and supplies approximately 10,000 articles via its own wholesale branch.

Little enthusiasm of manufacturers for advances by conventional retail

As in other European countries, some manufacturers supply their goods to both the specialist trade and conventional retailers. At Natexpo there was, however, a clear rejection of this concept. Biorevola, a manufacturer of gluten-free biscuits, noodles, snack bars and bread, is clearly rejecting E.Leclerc's advertisers, as they visited their stand to enquire about the possibility of supplying them.


“We're definitely not going to supply a conventional supermarket chain. We've grown with the specialist trade and we're satisfied with our situation as it is.”

– Silvie Bersinger


“We're definitely not going to supply a conventional supermarket chain,” said Silvie Bersinger of Biorevola most emphatically when asked about the outcome of the discussion with E.Leclerc representatives. “We've grown with the specialist trade and we're satisfied with our situation as it is.”

France: Bulk-selling pioneer

There has always been a tradition of selling loose goods in French organic shops. Whereas the sacks and cardboard boxes in German wholefood shops in the 1970s and 80s were soon replaced by packaged goods, they were replaced by modern self-service bulk-buying and filling facilities in France. This created the professionalisation of bulk-sales, with France becoming a pioneer. Today, France producers develop ultramodern filling systems for liquids, which were being offered to shop owners at Natexpo for installation in their specialist stores. “With our system, we're present in nearly 1000 shops in France and we've already got our first customers in Germany, like SuperBiomarkt,“ said Stéphane Saboureau from Vrac-Liquide. 

Platform for start-ups

Three people standing behind a trade show booth.
Sebastian Landaeus and Nina Lausecker (on the right) of Lökki with an employee at their Natexpo stand. © Kai Kreuzer

The exhibition area allocated to startups at this year's Natexpo was a great success, although it was quite crowded. “We're very pleased to have the opportunity to present ourselves at a public event for the first time,” beamed Sebastian Landaeus, who founded the new kombucha firm Lökki with his partner Nina Lausecker two years ago. In the meantime, this health-promoting drink in five taste variations has been distributed by four wholesalers across France and is also available in Spain. The number of people employed by the startup will rise from four to five in the near future.

A trade show booth at Natexpo 2018.
Guaranteed THC-free hemp for the food sector. © Kai Kreuzer

“Try our roasted hemp,” Christophe Latouche of L'Chanvre called out to the visitors around his booth. In fact, the hemp tastes very much like chopped and roasted sunflower seeds. Founded in 2002, the company now sells hemp seeds and various hemp food products under the brand name L'Chanvre in Europe. The hemp is supplied by 25 French organic farmers who grow their crop on 150 hectares of land. From 2016 to 2017, the Breton company recorded a surge in sales of 54%.

Two women at an exhibition stand for organic soap.
Sonett, the detergent and cleaning products manufacturer, placed filling systems for loose goods in a very prominent position at its stand. © Kai Kreuzer

Nearly all exhibitors were pleased with the course of Natexpo such as the wholesaler Pural from the German city of Baden-Baden. The company directly supplies nearly 2000 partners in France. “Last year we had growth of pleasing 14% in the French market, although this year it’s probably more difficult as the conventional retail trade is putting more downward pressure on prices,” said co-owner Ulrike Claus. Further German exhibitors at Natexpo included Arche Naturprodukte, Dr. Bronner, P. Jentschura, Lebensbaum, Taifun,Topas, Sonett and Yogitea.




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