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  • Author: Isobel O'Neill, Global Graduate Paris, Bord Bia - The Irish Food Board

    Since France entered into ‘phase 3’ of the Coronavirus pandemic on March 17th, no industry has been left unaffected by the changes and restrictions imposed. While foodservice establishments have been forced to close, food retailers, on the other hand, have continued to serve their customers. As new trends have begun to emerge, retailers have had to react quickly and adapt their offering to reflect these altered behaviours.



    Local – how long will it last?

    The trend of buying directly at the farm or from producers has increased among consumers with many believing that this practice will continue after the lockdown. However, counteracting this trend is the fact that prices in this setting are higher than those of their imported counterparts. This provides an opportunity for Irish producers as consumers’ begin to feel the long-term impact of their weakened purchasing power and return to the imported products.

    Organic - why the boost?

    According to Nielsen, organic produce sales have risen by 63% across the sector since mid-March. While the scale of the pandemic has increased consumers’ consciousness of the products in their diet, food producers should also note that the high sales figures may, in part, be due to the fact that organic products are less likely to sell out than their non-organic substitute. Notably, organic sales are growing at a higher rate in categories which are experiencing the most ruptures when compared to all other FMCGs. As a result, while organic has performed remarkably well, some of this success can be attributed to factors other than health and a desire to eat natural products.



    CSR – making it work for your company

    Corporate social responsibility has become more important than ever in the eyes of French consumers in recent months with 87% of those who saw or heard about a brands initiative to fight the pandemic reporting an improved sentiment toward that brand. This 87% is important for Irish producers to note, as it gives an insight into how consumers are engaging with brands during, and possibly long after the pandemic ends, and how even small initiatives can have a large impact.


    Partnerships – the potential of a well-matched pair

    Franprix (Casino’s branch of urban convenience stores), and Decathlon (a sports equipment giant), formed a partnership such that Franprix stocked five key Decathalon products in 70 of its Paris stores. The two companies say the partnership is mutually beneficial, as it enables Decathlon to sell products at a time when its stores are shut. On the other hand, it helps Franprix to position itself as a store which meets the consumer’s every need. Another retail partnership was formed between Carrefour (supermarket group) and Uber Eats. Customers could order via the Uber Eats app, by phone or via Carrefour’s website and have their products delivered in 30 minutes or less. While this demand for home delivery was rising sharply, this fitting partnership allowed Carrefour to benefit from its omnichannel capabilities. These partnerships demonstrate cross-industry collaboration which has become a necessity during the coronavirus pandemic, and how certain retailers have been able to leverage the situation to take on a heightened role in their customer’s lives.




    Private Label – unlocking the purchasing power

    To counteract the poor performance of hypermarkets during the lockdown, Leclerc has launched a new campaign, called Budget Renforcé (Improved Budget). It is fixing the prices of 12,600 of its private label products (les MDD) in one of the most ambitious campaigns seen amongst all retailers. Private label products have been deemed one of the winning categories of the pandemic. This could represent an area of opportunity for Irish producers with the capabilities and willingness to bring their product to market under private label.                                                                 

    With France soon moving into ‘phase two’ of ‘deconfinement’ and restrictions continuing to ease, the next few weeks will be crucial in establishing whether consumers will continue these patterns of behaviour or if they will resume their previous habits, proving these trends to be a short-term consequence of lockdown.



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