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Organic Retail Trade in France

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

For the specialist organic food trade, in France they use two descriptions that are not clearly defined: “magasin bio” and “magasin diététique”. Shops in the first category concentrate more on food, whereas the focus of the second category is on food supplements and health foods. Counting both sorts of shop in the French “Yellow Pages” reveals a total of approximately 2,500 outlets in the specialist organic trade. The market share of the specialist trade in the total organic market is estimated to be over 40% and is rising because the market for whole foods is currently growing at a faster rate than the sales of organics in the conventional food trade.


Picture: "Magasin Bio" in France

Apart from the usual higher concentration in the urban conurbations that is also found in other countries, there is no evidence of any particular regional distribution of organic outlets. Two-thirds of specialist organic shops are located in town centres, 20 % in the commercial zones on the edges of towns and 9% in residential areas. Some large stores have chosen shopping centres as their location. Hardly any stores have chosen a rural location. In general, it can be assumed that there are still gaps in the network of organic outlets, since each year more than one hundred new stores are opened.


A survey of store owners carried out by the business consultants Ecozept produced the following categorisation of stores (based on the store owners’ own evaluation): 56 % whole food stores, 18 % organic supermarkets, 21 % health food shops and 5 % “other”. Three categories of store size can be discerned, with half of all stores belonging in the middle category (51-150 m²). The average size is 113 m² (figures for 2004).


Table: French Specialist Whole Food  Stores (Key Indicators 2004)


Categorisation according to:
Size % Age % Development of Turnover  %
12-50m²  29 less than 5 years 33 decline in turnover/Stagnation 23
51-150 m²  49 6-15 years  38 +3 -10% growth   28
Over 151 m²  22 over 15 years  29 over 10% growth   24
no data   25


The average annual turnover per store is over 500,000 Euros, with the organic supermarkets achieving the highest turnover. In terms of floor space, the specialist whole food trade in France has a turnover of about 4,000 Euros per square metre. Approximately 20 % of French organic stores belong to chains, cooperatives or franchise schemes.


Biocoop ( is the biggest network of stores and is organised as a cooperative in which the independently run stores are members. The name can be explained by how Biocoop was created, since it developed from a consumer purchasing association. The shopkeepers are members of the coop or franchisees. Over 230 stores are supplied from three warehouses in different regions. The shops vary in size from 50 to 550 m², and the new shops being opened are deliberately created at the larger end of the scale. Biocoop sees itself as a leader in terms of its ethical image and lays down in an internal “charter” guideline for fair trade and for its preferred links with the local region. The business ethics are reflected also in the way its own values are communicated to the consumer (slogan: together for a meaningful life) and in long-term, binding relations with suppliers. Biocoop does not pursue a strategy of own brands, in order to give organic brand articles of medium-size businesses a better chance of establishing customer loyalty.


The oldest whole food franchise chain in France is La Vie Claire ( that has been in existence since 1948 and currently maintains over 120 stores all over the country. Its own brand with the same name constitutes about a fifth of the whole range. Its own bakery supplies the shops in and around Paris. The shop size varies from 50 m² to over 400 m², although most La Vie Claire shops are between 50 and 100 m². After modernising its shops to emphasise the image of high quality and value for money, the company intends to expand further. Only the organic supermarkets of Dame Nature have really extensive floor space.


The chain Biosphare/Biomonde comprises 33 organic supermarkets (150 – 300 m²). The chain has placed its stores strategically in the medium-sized towns in the south and in the centre of France: Mâcon, Bourg en Bresse, Montpellier, Clermont Ferrand, Toulouse. The “network” of independent stores runs a central warehouse and organises direct deliveries by coordinating the orders centrally. Further expansion is planned for the next few years.


Naturalia ( is a chain that was founded in 1973. It consists of 25 independent stores in the Paris region with centralised purchasing. According to its strategic development plan, average floor space will grow (currently 150 m²), and there will be further expansion in the Paris region.



Satoriz ( was founded in 1990 in Savoyen by two shop owners and today it consists of 19 quite large organic supermarkets in the east and south-east, mostly on the edges of towns and with big car parks. The purchasing headquarters is also responsible for the technical equipment and the interiors of the stores. Satoriz is striving to create an ”Organics for Everybody” image, with at the same time a tendency to discount. It has so far been run as a chain, but a new franchise structure is intended to make it easier to expand.


La Vie Saine sees itself as a “network” and as a combination of independent shop owners. It does not run a distribution centre but simply maintains a coordinating office for referencing, information, training and market observation. Usually, shop fittings, advertising material and other materials are also purchased centrally.  In addition to the ten organic stores (rather like supermarkets) with 100-500m² floor space, the network includes two restaurants as well. Its areas of operation are central France (the Dijon region) and the southern half of the country.


L’Eau Vive runs seven shops of a franchise chain in the central Rhone Valley-Alps region, that has a high level of purchasing power. As well as having central purchasing, L’Eau Vive has a special feature -  its own central confectionery manufacture that supplies a wide range of semi-finished bakery products to its own stores (le fournil de l’eau vive, Here the baking of loaves is finished. Recently the company has also been entered the large-scale catering market (canteens and schools).


The six organic supermarkets belonging to Croc’ Nature, with an average floor space of 260 m², are located in Burgundy and along the edge of the Alps. An example of a store internet site can be found under The stores are supplied from the purchasing department via an automatic ordering system. Croc’ Nature attaches particular importance to its fresh goods range for which it has its own refrigeration and logistics chain.


The following are cited for their exemplary shop design, strategic originality and good practice in sales and customer services: Le Chêne Vert is a large organic supermarket near Montpellier that was conceived as an alternative shopping centre. A clothing shop, a Do-it-Yourself department, a restaurant and an organic bakery that also supplies other organic shops are integrated parts of the complex, that measures over 3,000 m². Le Serpent Vert consists of two organic supermarkets (280 and 700 m²) in Strasbourg. The management belongs to the older generation of organic enthusiasts and manages its enterprise very efficiently. Biosol is an organic supermarket that is run with great enthusiasm 50 km north of Toulouse. Among its special features are working together with over 400 regional and local suppliers, a meat and cut-meat counter and a high quality wine cellar.




Le Chêne Vert
Zone Trifontaine, 5 rue des Genets, 34980 Saint Clément de Rivière, Tel.:+33(0) 499614230, Fax: +33(0)467419118


Le Serpent Vert
Rue d’Adelshoffen, 67300 Schiltigheim, Tel.: +33(0)388185565, Fax: +33(0)


65 Avenue Gambetta, 82000 Montauban, Tel.: +33(0)563914030, Fax: +33(0)


8 rue de Pierre Curie, 85520 Jard sur Mer


La Vie Saine
BP 22209, 21022 Dijon, Tel.: +33(0)380511651, Fax: +33(0)380511615


L’Eau Vive
Route Napoléon, 38320 Brie et Angonnes, Tel.: +33(0)476737001, Fax: +33(0)


Croc’ Nature
Zone Artisanale, 25770 Serre les Sapins



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