French food and drink export specialist predicts “a healthy 2017″ for British brands

Good news, perhaps, for UK wholesalers with export businesses following the Brexit vote earlier this year: The export experts at Sutralis (a Rouen, France, based consultancy) have been monitoring trends in the French food and drink sector for more than a decade, and have tracked which imported brands have succeeded.

According to Sutralis’ research, published this week, “that moment of pleasure/self-indulgence” is a leading reason for purchasing a new food product for 77% [Kantar TNS] of French consumers. As the French become more health-conscious, many are choosing to splurge from time to time – a trend known as “occasional indulgence” – rewarding their good eating habits with treats and self-indulgent splurges.

Sutralis says that taste remains the principal criteria when it comes to product selection for 77% of French consumers, and concludes that flavour appeal will continue to be the driving force behind a product’s success or failure in 2017, which means that in-store sampling is important for new product launches in France.

Sutralis has also identified four major food trends for 2017 (which could apply here in the UK as much as they do to France):

  1. Return To The Land: The development of more artisanal products, where provenance is imperative, and communications on pack will share the producer’s own story (family photos, pictures of the farm etc). There is a growing desire for reassurance for shoppers regarding the origin of products.
  1. Eat Better: This trend encompasses more than healthy eating – it  also refers to consumers’ interest in what they’re eating. 79% of French people are convinced that food has a direct impact on their health. And as people become more aware about the relationship between what they eat and their health and wellbeing, the free-from sector will continue to grow. As an example, sales of gluten-free products have increased by 13.4% in value in 2015. Sutralis predicts the growth to continue across categories – moving away from a focus on bread and biscuits to offer a wider variety of products. These products will also continue to widen their appeal among non-allergy-suffering consumers.
  1. Waste Not, Want Not: French consumers are more keenly feeling ethical responsibility; from the packaging materials used to the sourcing of the ingredients. There are calls for a reduction in food waste – so portioning is important – and in packaging waste. Domestic brands are already stepping up to the plate: a French producer, for example, now offers jams made from unsold produce that would have otherwise ended up in landfill from markets and supermarkets. The ethical element also extends to animal welfare – with reassurances being required on packs.
  1. Authentic, Regional & Exotic Flavours: Including watermelon juice and birch tree water; other innovative products expected to hit the market in 2017 include yoghurts flavoured with a combination of fruits and vegetables, more veggie-packed cakes and desserts, and vegetable-based drinks. Vegetarian and flexi-vegetarian (only eating meat occasionally) diets are growing amongst French consumers. Carrefour, the major supermarket and hypermarket chain in France, capitalised on this market in 2015 by creating the own-brand range ‘Carrefour Veggie’ and more retailers will follow suit with products specifically for people choosing to eat less, or no, meat in their diet.

Director and founder of Sutralis, Philippe Demarest, comments: “2016 has been a fast-paced year with rafts of new products launching – very successfully – in France. The interest in products imported from around the world, particularly British brands, continues to rise. We regularly communicate with the retail buyers and decision makers, and are acutely aware of what they are looking for and their hopes for what will be ‘the next big thing’. In-store sampling, consumer trials, focus groups and excellent research are all required to improve a new product’s chance of success.”

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