Important Producers and Sellers of Organic Food in France
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Organic processing in France is a new industry. Two-thirds of companies have been certified organic only since 1998. Whereas ten years ago there were only 500 organic firms in France, today there are over 4800, mostly quite small organic enterprises with fewer than ten employees. Although this number has declined slightly since 2002, the trend can be explained by companies merging, with the number of employees and turnover continuing to rise. Geographic concentrations of organic production are the lower Loire Valley stretching to the coast of the Atlantic (especially milk processing), the Bordeaux region and the Rhone Valley.
Picture: Organic Cheese Manufacturer
The following have been selected from the abundance of French organic processing companies because of their size and importance in the market or on account of their originality.
SOY-Nutrition et Soja has a mission to familiarise as many consumers as possible with traditional soya products, in particular tofu and seitan. To achieve this objective, the company has worked with farmers in the region to build up its own supply chain for organic soya.
The company was founded in 1982. Today it produces a wide selection of plant-based food: tofu in traditional and new recipes and new creations like tofu sausages, but also cereals and pulse-products. Soya processing amounts to 100,000 t. There are 65 employees working at the firm’s headquarters, located in Revel about 50 km east of Toulouse and in the middle of the soya cropping region. In 1998 SOY was in a position to present to the public the first guaranteed GM-free soya processing in Europe. The company is very actively involved in shaping agriculture in South West France. Under the brand name “SOY”, the company supplies the specialist whole food trade in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland and Belgium. Non-domestic catering is supplied with products under other brand names. The company also supplies the products for other trade names used by the conventional food trade in France, Italy and Spain. Some tension arises from the fact that SOY is not only a part of the Group Nutrition & Sante but also belongs to the Novartis concern. The latter is not only one of the most significant suppliers of GM food but also markets a host of brands in the diet food market (among others, Gerblé and Céréal). Novartis wants to dispense with these areas of activity but states that it cannot find a buyer. The connection with SOY originated in 1999 when Soy was looking to raise capital for further expansion and approached Nutrition and Sante for this purpose. SOY emphasises that Novartis does not exercise any influence on the firm’s strategy.
The Triballat group of companies manufactures conventional and organic milk products (the organic brand is called “Vrai”, meaning “true”) diet products and also a soya product line called “Sojasun”. Cooperating closely with organic farmers, Triballat has been working on the organic milk product brand since 1976. According to Triballat itself, “Vrai” is the marker leader in organic yoghurt in France. This brand is sold both by the whole food trade and by conventional food retailers (Carrefour). The position of “Vrai” is made more difficult by the conventional yoghurt “Bio Danone”, one of the few products that is still benefiting from a special regulation in the EU Organic Directive. The Danone product can be called “organic” until 2006 on account of its brand name registered in the 1980s, even though it is produced from conventional milk. Surveys have demonstrated that about 25 % of French people consider the Danone product to be a genuine organic product. Since it was made known that Danone will replace its “false” organic yoghurt at the end of 2005 with the brand “Activa”, Triballat has launched poster advertising all over the country in order to fill the gap in the market. The group of companies has a total turnover of 240 million euros and employs 1300 people in France.
The Distriborg group that was founded in 1970 is not a manufacturer but sells its own brands of organic food and diet products. The group is the biggest player in the French organic market and has belonged since 2001 to the Dutch Wessanen concern. Its most important organic brands are Bjorg, Bonneterre, Evernat, Le Sillon and Bio Vivre.
The conventional food trade is supplied with “Bjorg” (picture), the only organic brand that is regularly advertised on TV in France. The brand consists of items ranging from dry products like rice waffles to soya drinks. The specialist organic trade is supplied by its own wholesalers (Bonneterre, Chantenat, Kalisterra). A wide product range, its own logistics and good service have made the group into the market leaders. The enterprise set up its own chain of shops in 1986, “Dame Nature”, in Paris and bought up the traditional chain “La Vie Claire”. Today this chain is managed independently by Régis Pelen, the founder of Distriborg who in the meantime has left the company. Through co-packer contracts, Distriborg has a decisive influence on several organic processing companies (e.g. Provamel). Almost 600 people work for Ditriborg in France. Its annual turnover is 125 million Euros, of which roughly one-third is generated in the specialist trade and two-thirds in the conventional retail trade.
In France, Celnat (picture) is a leading processor of cereals, pseudo cereals such as quinoa, oilseed and pulses. The list of products includes malted cereals, barley extract, brand: Green Magma” (using the whole barley plant), cereal syrup (using grain), ricepops and rice waffles, muesli and breakfast cereals, pre-cooked grain products, ready meals based on grain, plant drinks and desserts as milk-substitute products, dried fruits, algae and sea salt, and traditional products taken from Japanese cuisine. The enterprise is not only a direct partner of the specialist whole food trade under its own brand (Celnat) but also a co-packer for the conventional retail food trade and the supplier of numerous other organic processors.
Celnat has its origins in a conventional mill that can be traced back to the 19th century. The brothers Robert and Jean Celle discovered the benefits of organic farming and macrobiotic nutrition in the 1970s and started to trade and then soon after to manufacture their own organic products. Celnat has been a completely organic company since 1979. The enterprise grew rapidly and invested in new preparation facilities incorporating some of the company’s own innovations. More than 3 % of turnover is invested in research and development, and the company is the technological leader in the production of flakes from pulses and oilseed. Celnat has also developed innovative, patented processes in the area of plant-based milk-substitute drinks and pre-cooked grains. Annual turnover is estimated to be around 12 million Euros with a staff of nearly 50. Exports to Belgium, Spain, Italy and Switzerland account for a quarter of turnover. Half of the turnover is derived from its own brand products.
Euro-nat, a joint stock company, specialises in dry goods in the organic market. The company is characterised by two core activities. It is the market leader in Europe in processing quinoa; its other core activity consists of grain processing, pasta products, biscuits, muesli, etc., both for its own brand “Priméal” (picture) and for other producers and manufacturers of branded goods. The complete dry range of other manufacturers together with its own products are distributed to the specialist whole food trade by Euro-nat-logistics. The conventional retail food trade is also supplied. In addition to these activities, a special distribution service to the gastronomy sector and a mail-order trade have been created.
The history of the company is closely linked to the discovery of the quinoa culture by the founder of the enterprise Didier Perreol. Euro-nat has been marketing this pseudo-cereal from the uplands of Bolivia as a product innovation in France and Europe as a whole and is also building up its own supply chain using the principles of Fair Trade. From the outset, only 100 % certified organic quinoa has been imported. Euro-nat is by far the most significant importer of quinoa in Europe. Since the business was first created, Euro-nat has operated both as a wholesaler and a processor. By virtue of its own growth and the acquisition of other companies (the French firms Bio-Land and Nicolas) and of the brands Bisson (picture) and Douce Nature, this enterprise has become one of the biggest players in the organic market in France.
Didier Perreol is playing an important role in shaping the organic market in France. He is represented in most of the organic industry’s national organisations and has his say in, among other things, developing guidelines. It was his initiative that created the label “Bio and Fair” (Bio équitable) which has been used subsequently by other companies (link: http://www.euro-nat.com/fr/com-equi.html). Euro-nat is creating the supply of organics not only with exotic quinoa but also with the typical product of its home region, Ardèche, namely the sweet chestnut. Whereas the centuries-old chestnut tradition is declining drastically, with processors resorting to imports, Euro-nat has marketed a sweet chestnut product line under its brand Priméal that guarantees the origin of the products is the Ardèche. The varieties selected are those that are tasty, remain firm when cooked but which produce a relatively low yield.
In addition to selling own-brand articles and processing, Euro-nat operates a marketing partnership with the following manufacturers:
- Spirulina: the Dutch manufacturer of Spirulina food supplements
- Yarrah: the Dutch manufacturer of organic pet food
- La Drôme Provençale: the manufacturer in southern France of essential plant oils and aroma essences.
In 2004, the joint stock company Euro-nat achieved a turnover of 22 million Euros with nearly 90 employees. The most important subcategories are:
1. Euro-nat: cereals processing, preparation and marketing. About 14 million Euros turnover with 50 employees in 2002.
2. Bio-Land: wholesaler for organic products in the Paris region. 1.5 million Euros turnover with 7 employees.
3. Territoire: organic biscuit production. 0.5 million Euros turnover with 4 employees.
4. Nicolas: pasta products and noodles. 0.6 million Euros turnover with 6 employees.
5. Jatariy: data collection and initial stages of quinoa production for Euro-nat. Manufacture of quinoa pops. 0.6 million Euros turnover with 35 employees.
6. Douce Nature: manufacture and marketing of personal care (hygiene) as well as cleaning materials (for the house). Turnover and number of employees not known.
Initially a marketing association consisting of several farmers, in 1985 the company Arcadia developed out of an agricultural holding that had been farming according to Demeter guidelines since 1978. The founders of Arcadia were Dominique and Bernard Kimmel, who above all wanted to improve the marketing facilities for organically cultivated medicinal and culinary herbs. The product range expanded over the years by buying in from near and distant countries. Today more than 200 spices, spice mixtures, teas, herbal teas and plant extracts are sold under the brands “Cook” and “Herbier de France”. Thus Arcadia brings together aspects of global trade (in part certified as Fair Trade) and a pronounced regional and local involvement. With its brands, the company appeals to the customers of the specialist whole food trade but it also supplies organic processing companies with raw materials like dehydrated spices and plant and fruit extracts. Arcadia has an annual turnover of about 2.5 million Euros and employs 22 people. The company has recently moved to new premises built according to especially environmentally friendly principles.
A very recent company to appear among the large-scale organic players who shape the market in France is the Centre de Caféologie. This company, that roasts coffee beans, was founded only in 1999 near Bordeaux. The claim of the founder, Christoph Lambard, is that he can provide the traditional, high quality roast standard under efficient, industrial conditions. To achieve this objective, he insisted from the outset on relatively large quantities of raw product in order to spread the costs of the roasting plants and to ensure more uniform coffee quality. For this company, Fair Trade, organic production and the best possible taste are standards that complement each other. Around 30 coffee varieties from every coffee cropping region are available at the “Centre de Caféologie”. In the meantime, the company has also started to sell tea, cocoa and sugar. The concept has worked so well that the company has increased its turnover by a factor of six in five years. With its brand “Destination Café”, it is now well established in the French specialist whole food sector and also markets as a co-packer via the conventional retail trade. Since 2005, the products of “Centre de Caféologie” are increasingly available in the German-speaking countries, Spain and Italy.
Nutrition et Soja
Chemin de L’horte
Tel.: +33 (0) 5 62 18 72 78
Fax: +33 (0) 5 62 18 72 51
2 rue Julien Neveu
35531 Noyal sur Vilaine
Tel.: +33 (0)
Fax: +33 (0)
217 chemin du Grand Revoyet
69230 Saint Genis Laval
Tel.: +33 (0) 4 72 67 10 20
Fax: +33 (0) 4 72 67 10 67
Tel.: +33 (0) 4 71 03 04 14
Fax: +33 (0) 4 71 03 54 31
Z.I. La Boisonette
Tel.: +33 (0) 4 75 67 30 15
Fax: +33 (0) 4 75 67 30 24
Tel.: +33 (0) 4 66 56 99 33
Fax: +33 (0) 4 66 30 62 61
Centre de Caféologie
30 rue Yves Glotin
Tel.: +33 (0) 5 56 11 27 47
Fax: +33 (0) 5 56 11 27 49