The organic market in France has seen a slowdown in growth since May 2021, but this situation needs to be put into perspective. The number of organic shops in France increased from 2,826 outlets in 2017 to 3,258 in 2021 (+15.3%). The sales area increased by 34%, from 640,000 m2 in 2017 to approximately 860,000 m2 in 2021. Turnover of specialised organic shops in France increased from €3.34 billion in 2017 to €4.16 billion in 2021, increasing by 24%.
Organic market in France: the leaders
The three leading shop groups across France are Biocoop, Naturalia and La Vie Claire. Biocoop achieved a turnover of €1.6 billion in 2021, down 1%, a first ever for the leading group in the French specialised organic sector, which has 43.6% of the market share. However, compared to 2019, growth remains high at around +15%. The shop network added 81 shops in 2021 and, at the end of March 2022, the national distributor had 765 points of sale.
The Biocoop Cooperative has recently emphasised its commitments as a militant organic brand with an 80% supply from France. 100% of its suppliers are small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as medium-sized companies. 100% of its fruit and vegetables are seasonal, and local produce accounts for 15%.
The three leading organic retail groups in France are Biocoop, Naturalia and La Vie Claire
The specialised organic sector is not a long and calm river. But Naturalia seems to be able to maintain its objectives despite the market downturn. The subsidiary of Monoprix (Casino Group) thus achieved a turnover of €385 million in 2021, an increase of 19% compared to 2019. It is worth recalling that Naturalia achieved a turnover of €395 million in 2020. The brand’s market share now stands at 10% (+0.5% compared to 2020 and +0.8% compared to 2019). In 2021, the organic products specialist welcomed 38 new points of sale to its shop network (259 in total).
The third player in the French specialised organic world, La Vie Claire (380 shops, 250 of which are franchised) seems to be in the midst of a crisis. The model, whose development is based on franchising and own-brand offerings, may not be able to cope with the decline of the organic market. La Vie Claire brand is the largest on the market with nearly 2,000 products distributed exclusively in its outlets. More than 250 new products are launched every year. In March this year, La Vie Claire launched a low price campaign on 100 organic products, which will last until February 2023. A new executive change is also planned for the organisation imminently.
Bio c’Bon, acquired at the end of 2020 by the Carrefour group, specialises in the retail distribution of organic products with a more urban concept in the city centre through a network of 101 shops (as of 31 March 2022) under the Bio c’Bon banner, and is located throughout France. Its owner, Carrefour, distributes so-called ‘conventional’ (i.e. non-organic) products, but also organic products in its hypermarkets, supermarkets and convenience stores. It also operates a network of shops specialised in organic specialised distribution under the So’Bio (69 shops) and Carrefour Bio brands in Europe. Bio c’Bon closed or sold its shops outside France (the brand persists in Japan, operated by a local distribution group: Aeon).
18 months after being taken over by Carrefour, Bio c’Bon changed its positioning to become part of neighbourhood life and offer new proximity services (plant care and loan of DIY tools to members of its loyalty scheme). Carrefour’s specialised organic division, which groups together the Bio c’Bon and So.bio brands, has had a new CEO since 1 April, Pierre-Yves Fournet.
The combined buying group Biomonde has grown to 170 shops (225 in 2021), with no closures, but with changes to other buying groups. Other networks or groups exist on French territory: Les Comptoirs de la bio (95 shops) with Intermarché as a minority shareholder, La Vie Saine (16 shops), L’Eau Vive (59 shops: integrated and franchised) with national presence.
The outlook for 2022 is either a continuation of the concentration of organic speciality shops or the consolidation of their business model
Regional stakeholders are growing due to the creation and/or acquisition of smaller players: Marcel & Fils (45 shops), Le Grand Panier Bio (25 integrated and franchised shops), Le Marché de Léopold (26 shops), My Bio Shop (22 shops). Other networks such as Naturéo (50 shops) or Satoriz (40 shops) hardly move, perhaps out of caution.
There are a few more “small” networks on the market: Bio & Co (7 shops Invivo Retail Group), Bio Frais (4 shops Grand Frais – Prosol), Le Marchand bio (8 shops), and also independent consumer cooperatives such as Chlorophylle (7 shops).
Future forecasts for the organic market in France
The outlook for 2022 is either a continuation of the concentration of specialised organic shops or the consolidation of their economic model, the territorial network and purchases at “better prices” in order to fight against the classic large-scale so-called conventional distribution. The strategy of the specialised organic shops will undoubtedly be to communicate better about the labels and the challenges of organic farming and to act more on its foundations and its added value: “Bio” beyond the European label, at local and service level, with qualified and motivated staff, with a humane treatment and a social model through training and better salaries.
Author: Gerard Gontier, French Organic Market Expert
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Bio Eco Actual, Independent European Organic Press
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