Organic Food in the Conventional Retail Food Trade in France
by Redaktion (comments: 0)
France has about 58 million inhabitants and is one of the few western countries to have a higher birth than death rate. More than 11 million people live in the Paris conurbation. Since the end of the Second World War, agriculture and the food economy has undergone radical restructuring that in some regions has been conducive to a very intensive agricultural system that is competitive on the world market. Another consequence has been emigration to the cities and depopulation over wide areas of the countryside.
Picture: Young family, buying "organic" at Monoprix
As early as 1981, France created a state seal of approval (“AB” - Agriculture Biologique) and corresponding guidelines that later became the basis for the EU organic guidelines. Organic agriculture in France is, however, subsidised less than in other EU countries. 1.9 % of agricultural land is farmed organically in France today. This is insufficient to satisfy the growing demand, and a wide range of imports are necessary in almost all product categories, with the exception of milk, wheat and meat). The proportion of organic food in the total turnover of food is estimated to have been approximately 2 % in 2004 (about 1.8 billion Euros).
The state seal of approval “AB” (Agriculture Biologique)
42 % of organic food is sold in the conventional retail trade in France. You can find a basic range consisting of milk, eggs, flour, biscuits and coffee (organic and Fair Trade) in practically every food outlet and also in hard discount stores. Usually an organic cheese variety is also available. On the other hand, only a fluctuating range of organic fruit and vegetables, and by no means nationwide, available even in the chains that show a real commitment to organics. Among the most important chains selling organic products are Carrefour Auchan, Intermarche, Monoprix and E. Leclerc.
Carrefour is the biggest retail trade enterprise in France. The concern runs its 180 stores (hypermarkets) under the name “Carrefour”. The roughly 1 200 supermarkets are operated under the names ED, 8 à Huit, Dia%, Proxi, Promocash, Shopi, Marché Plus and Champion. Carrefour began selling organic products in 1992. In the meantime it has become the leader in the sale of organic foods in the conventional retail food trade. The first organic product marketed by Carrefour was a loaf, the so-called “Boule bio”. “Boule” describes the round shape of this rustic wheat loaf that is made with sourdough. With 12 million loaves sold each year, “Boule bio” is certainly the most consumed organic product in France. In 1997 the company introduced its own label, “Carrefour bio”, that is found on packaging only in conjunction with the state organic label “AB” (Agriculture Biologique).
Trade name “Carrefour bio”: “La Terre est notre Soleil” (The Earth is our Sun)
The range of organic products in the Carrefour hypermarkets consists currently of about 750 products, of which some 250 are available under the organic trade name “Carrefour bio”. When “Carrefour bio” was started in 1997, only 60 organic products were on sale, of which 48 were “Carrefour bio”. Emmanuelle Rey, who is responsible for “Carrefour bio”, reports that 10-15 new own brand products are added to the organic range each year.
The products currently stocked comprise fresh food - there is, for example, a wide selection of fruit and vegetables - a wide variety of dry goods and organically produced frozen items. Around 200 farms and 40 smaller and medium-sized firms work for “Carrefour bio”. A meeting of store owners and processors in the autumn of 2005 demonstrated that they operate very well together. In the other chains belonging to the concern, namely the supermarkets and neighbourhood shops organic products are sold under the manufacturers’ brands or under the trade name “Grand Jury” with the addition of “Bio”.
Auchan owns 365 hypermarkets worldwide (119 in France) and 646 “Atac-supermarkets” (375 in France). Auchan is one of the biggest retailers of organic products in France, although in recent years it has turned to “integrated agriculture” (AR=Agriculture Raisonnée). Auchan began selling organic products in 1992. It was the first retail chain to establish the marketing of organic meat in 1995 and its operations have enabled efficient marketing structures for organic meat to be developed which in the meantime have benefited the whole sector. Auchan customers are presented today with a wide selection of meat products and poultry, sausages, mince and ready meals - all organic. Approximately 80 % of organic beef produced in France and about half of all organic meat production are marketed by Auchan. This constitutes about 2 % of meat sales in the conventional retail trade. In 2001 Auchan’s sales of organic products rose by 25 %, and the trend is continuing upwards. The total organic range consists of around 700 products at the moment. In addition to meat and eggs, organic bread and dairy products are on sale. The organic dry range and organic ready meals have not been so successful. Auchan’s organic products always bear the state organic seal “AB”, and it does not have its own brand name. These products are advertised by the slogan “Auchan aime le Bio” (Auchan loves organic).
Intermarché or the group of “Mousquetaires” comprises a franchise system that runs the chains Intermarche, Ecomarche and Netto (hard discount) in France. Organic products do not play a major role at Intermarché and turnover is estimated to be 1 % (compared with an estimated average of 1.8 % of the market). It markets a basic range of organic products comprising about 180 items, some under its own brand “Natège”, with a strong link between organic and diet products. The range of products varies according to the store manager and branch. Intermarché sells first and foremost organic dry goods, milk and dairy products and, in a few outlets, organic fruit and vegetables.
Organic trade name of Intermarché: Natège
Monoprix belongs to the smaller supermarket chains in France with about 300 stores. The enterprise concentrates on productive inner city locations and has created its image round the concepts environmental protection, social responsibility and sustainability. A completely new type of store called “Citymarché idéal”, that is supposed to be more environmentally friendly by using less water and energy, underlines this philosophy. Monoprix has been an organic pioneer in the food retail trade and is continuing to make every effort in its outstanding marketing of organics. In 1993, Monoprix introduced its own organic trade name “Monoprix BIO”. The size of the organic range depends on the particular location and varies between 160 and 550 items. Monoprix differs from other companies in that it does not sell organically produced goods from the angle of their increased health value. In its publications, the firm attributes more importance to better taste and the benefits to the environment. The purchase of organic products is assured and controlled by good collaboration with farmers and working together with the whole organic industry.
Leclerc owns 391 hypermarkets, 131 supermarkets and 39 specialist shops. The enterprise is very committed to environmental protection in general, and in 1989 it began to make its customers aware of the topic environmental pollution. Using the slogan “Ensemble protégeons l’environnement” (Let us protect the environment together), the company was the first as early as 1995 to replace plastic bags with more environmentally friendly paper bags. This is the reason why Leclerc includes in its range food that is organic and produced in an environmentally friendly way. Leclerc’s organically produced goods are included in its own brand “Marque Repère” (Showing the Direction) under the name “Bio Village”. The first products under the “Bio Village” label were available from Leclerc in 2000. This own brand currently comprises roughly 50 articles, including eggs, milk and dairy products, jams, noodles, coffee, flour and chicken. Although the organic range also includes fruit and vegetables, they are not available nationwide.
Carrefour Direction Générale
6, avenue Raymond Poincaré
75771 Paris Cedex 16
Tel.: +33 1 53 70 19 00
Auchan Direction Générale
200, rue de la Recherche
59650 Villeneuve d’Ascq
Tel.: +33 3 28 37 67 00
Intermarché Direction d’enseigne
24 rue Auguste Chabrieres
75737 Paris cedex 15
Direction Commerciale Marchandises
204 Rond Point du Pont de Sèvres
92100 Boulogne Billancourt
Centres E. Leclerc siège social
52 rue Camille Desmoulins
92451 Issy-les-Moulineaux cedex