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France: organic retail continues to expand

by Kai Kreuzer (comments: 0)

As last year, France is excelling with high growth rates in the organic sector. In terms of both land area and turnover, the increase is impressive. The expansion of the specialist wholefood trade in France continues unabated. In the first four months of 2017 (middle of December 2016 to middle of April 2017)  61 specialist organic stores and organic supermarkets were opened. The average retail area measured 335 m². Total turnover of the organic industry, including catering, is around 7 billion euros.

Biocoop in a Dada concept store

Biocoop provides local shops within walking distance, here in a Dada concept store. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

Organic chains in the lead

Most of the new organic outlets have been created by Biocoop, La Vie Claire and Naturalia across the whole of France – testimony to the leading role played by the Biocoop network and the twoorganic chains in the country's organic market. However, regional chains - L'Eau Vive, Naturéo and Les Comptoirs de la bio – have also opened new branches. In the case of the Biomonde network, growing strongly a few years ago, there has been hardly any evidence of expansion during 2016 and this year.

Naturéo - 42 % growth

Growth in turnover achieved by Biocoop ( was an astonishing 25 % and, at 950 million euros, was a record result, whereas after a few years of competition the Biomonde network (, with its 185 stores, is stagnating.  With 431 stores, Biocoop was, according to Agence Bio, 5 %  above the 20% overall growth of the organic market. Biocoop's prognosis: if growth in turnover continues at this rapid rate it will amount to 1.2 billion euros by the end of 2017. In a press release, the company has announced that it will open 60 new outlets this year in France.  In terms of growth in turnover, Biocoop is still second to Naturéo (, that has registered growth of 42 %. Within ten years  it has opened 42 big organic supermarkets (in many cases 800-1000 m²), taking the company step by step beyond the Paris region. 20 new stores are planned for 2017.   

Natureo organic supermarket

 Naturéo focuses on retail space of around 1000 m² in typical locations accessed by car in business parks. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

La Vie Claire and Naturalia also very successful

With growth of 27 % in 2016, La Vie Claire ( achieved turnover that is significantly above the average for the industry. At 220 million euros, its turnover  exceeded the 200 million threshold. In 2017 the company is planning to open another 40 stores. Currently it has  292 predominantly quite small organic health food stores in France, plus three in Morocco, three in Israel and another ten in overseas territories. In recent years Naturalia ( has also been sprinting  along at an impressive pace. This organic company is a part of the Monoprix corporation.At the end of 2016 it had 145 specialist organic stores, 20 of which were new openings. From the May/June edition of Bio-Linéaires, a specialist publication for the wholefood trade in France, we learn that annual turnover came to almost 200 million euros.

La Vie Claire, French organic supermarket chain

La Vie Claire used to be a purely health food chain. Now it sells a lot of organic fresh food as well. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

The organic chain L’Eau Vive (“Living water”), founded nearly 40 years ago in Grenoble, has for a long time been well established as a regional chain in the east of France. In February this year it opened its fiftieth store (600 m²) in Chambéry. Since then it has already created two more outlets. We are now seeing more and more expansion across the whole of France. The latest new openings are located to the east and south-east of Paris and in Angoulême (650 m²) north of Bordeaux. 30 of the specialist organic stores of L’Eau Vive ( are franchises, which means the company doesn't have to bear either the investment costs or the risks associated with setting up a store. In the next five years, the number of stores operating under the L’Eau Vive flag is set to double, which equates to rapid growth of ten stores a year. 

Naturalia organic supermarket

 After Paris, Naturalia has developed locations in the Lyon region and Provence. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

Still independent retailers in the wholefood sector

It's not only well established chains and networks that are currently developing so vigorously in France – there are still independent retailers who are transforming their two or three stores into small chains. An example is Bio&Co, (, a company in Aix-en-Provence. It recently launched an organic supermarket (600 m²) in Vallauris west of Nice. Its special feature: an integrated 110 m² organic restaurant. The company's four stores in 2016 registered turnover of 18 million euros.

Botanic too (, a chain with 66 stores all over France is supplementing its garden centres with more and more specialist organic outlets, as can be seen in Le Muy and  Mouans-Sartoux in the Provence region. The stores have about 150 m² of retail space and sell a good selection of organics – fresh fruit and vegetables plus chilled dairy products. You enter the integrated organic store via a passage from the garden store. Most of the flowers, pot plants, shrubs, bushes and trees have, however,  been grown conventionally. As well as the offer of plants, there is a wide range of accessories for house and garden, some of which are organic products. You find a Botanic organic store at every second location, i.e. in 33 towns or districts.

Botanic Franch garden center with organic food

Botanic supplements its garden centres with organic stores. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

City ranking: a surprising result

For the first time, Bio-Linéaires carried out a ranking that reveals how many wholefood and organic stores there are per 1000 inhabitants. You might well have expected Paris to be in first place, but it's not - it's Aix-en-Provence. With 14 specialist wholefood stores and organic supermarkets, the 141,000 citizens of this city in the south of France are well provided for by one store per 10,000 people. With 11,300 inhabitants per store, Paris is slightly worse off and in second place, followed by the  Lyon and Grenoble regions (third and fourth place). Nice on the Côte d’Azur, where the number of stores has increased to 23 in just a few years, comes fifth.

Clearly irritated more and more by the great success of specialist wholefood stores, Carrefour, France's biggest retailer, intends to offer organic products not only within its conventional range in the way it has done so far. It now wants to expand much more rapidly than hitherto its own specialist stores that are operating under the name Carrefour Bio. Within the four years to 2021 its current 14 outlets will be transformed into an astonishing tally of 150 stores. This is how this massive corporation  (turnover of 77 billion euros in 2015) wants to benefit from the trend  towards 100% specialist organic stores.

Bio City France

 Bio City organic shop. Photo © Kai Kreuzer

France: organic data for 2016

  • Turnover including catering 7 billion euros
  • 1.5 million ha of agricultural land (AL)
  • 17 % growth of AL over previous year
  • 5.7 % of the total AL managed organically
  • Over 10 % of jobs in agriculture are on organic farms
  • 3.5 % of money spent on food is for organic products






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