France: More Than a Nice Niche?
By Frank J. Piason
Any food trend is important in a country thats often regarded as the gastronomic capital of the world. So, although organic food is still a niche market in France and represents less than 1 percent of total retail sales, it constitutes a growing selling forceand a force to be reckoned with at the table.
While the range of organic foods in France is limited, the organic message is proving to be an important rallying cry. The French government has even implemented an action plan to stimulate domestic production of organic agricultural products.
France is both a market and a competitor for U.S. suppliers; and with major French supermarkets now touting their own private label lines, current production cannot meet domestic demand. As a result, French imports of organic food products have risen steadily by 20 percent since 1993, reaching 30,000 tons in 1998.
Food processors in France are in short supply of organic ingredients such as exotic fruits, nuts, honey and milk, as well as grains for animal feed. Aware of the problem, the government is working to stimulate organic production.
Demand is no longer limited to raw products. Thus the moment is right for U.S. exporters who can provide a reliable supply of high-quality organic products at a reasonable price.
Best prospects include grains, almonds, pistachios, dried fruits, flour, tropical fruits, milk and organic proteins for animal feed.
A few areas are almost unexploited: vegetarian meals, veggie burgers, salad dressings, sauces, ethnic dishes, baby foods and soups.
The ideal way for a U.S. exporter to penetrate the French market is to deal through an importer or distributor. Firms with branded organic foods should advertise through trade shows and specialized magazines. Contact:
Office of Agricultural Affairs
2, Avenue Gabriel
75382 Paris Cedex 08
Tel.: (33-1) 43 12 2264
Fax: (33-1) 43 12 2662
The author is Agricultural Minister-Counselor at the American Embassy, Paris, France.