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The Market for Ready Meals in France

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In addition to its industrial market studies, ITC also advices you on a choice of markets based on their suitability for your product and firm.

1.General Data and Market Tendencies 

Within our definition of ready meals and the huge market it represents, we include a wide range of foods preserved using modified atmosphere packaging a category in which we can include dehydrated foods.

Sales of food in modified atmosphere packaging decreased slightly last year due, in part, to the crisis which encouraged people to cook more at home. Nevertheless, of sales of all the categories we analysed only one (dehydrated foods) rose last year (12’6%) to reach a value of some €40 million. 

Sales of ready meals packaged in modified atmosphere (plats appertisés) in 2013 with a percentage comparison with 2012

  Sales in € Mill Evolution of value Sales in Mill of Units Evolution of volume
Ready Meals 751,0 -3,2%
French dishes 329,9 -2,1% 80 656 -3,8%
World Food 149,1 -4,1% 963 -3,7%
Pasta based dishes 92,9 -11,0% 41 501 -11,8%
Exotic dishes 110,8 -2,4% 22 979 -5,0%
Dehydrated dishes 40,4 12,6% 3 687 8,1%
Hors-d’œuvres 27,8 -5,5% 1 783 -6,5%

* Superstores and supermarkets, mean yearly total 25/08/2013

Source: IRI, LSA Special Edition “Epicerie” December 2013.

We also have to mention that France imports some €500 million in ready meals of which Spain is the 5th supplier with a total of nearly €38 million (about 6·72% of the total). The first 4 are Italy, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

2. Market Structure

The size of the companies processing ready meals in France varies greatly. There are any local companies producing their regional specialities. The firm Fleury Michon has the largest share of the ready meal market according to IRI (Information Resources, Inc.). The second largest is the LDC Group which sells under brand names of Marie and Traditions d’Asie (the groups is the largest in Asian specialities). As fr as meals packaged in modified atmosphere, the represent more than half the ready meals sold in large and medium stores in France. This sector is dominated by the CCA Group (Financière Turenne-Lafayette). Their brands are: William Saurin, and Garbit. The second on the market is Cofigeo with the Raynal,  Roquelaure and Zapetti brands.  

3. Market Trends

In general France has followed general worldwide market trends as far as demand and consumer behaviour is concerned. Amongst which we can mention less time spent on traditional cooking, and more on leisure (which also derives from the greater number of women who have joined the labour market has, hence, have less time for cooking); the growing habit of eating t the place of work and a growing interest for “exotic” dishes such as lasagna, raviloi, paella which regularly appear on the Frenchman’s favourite list.

Nevertheless, according to an Irish study, Europeans have changed their eating habits drastically over the last 10 years. In 2013, only 48% of those surveyed said they ate ready meals down from 62% in 2005. This was attributed to a growing tendency to eat healthy food, organic food and a move back to home-cooking which may be a result of the large number of TV shows and magazines that deal with the subject.

On the other hand, as seen in the table, the market for dehydrated and freeze-dried foods keeps growing boosted by the increasing number of sportsmen who consume them and the development of their own brand by Decathlon.

4. Wholesale and Centralised Purchasing Offices

Currently food distribution is dominated by the large outlets (superstores and supermarkets)
and, to a lesser extent by the hard discounters.

Thus food distribution in France is concentrated in 7 large groups: Carrefour; Auchan; Casino; Intermarché; Système U and Cora. An important point is the growing share taken by the German hard discount stores:  Lidl, Aldi and Norma.

Centralised Purchasing Offices and specialised food wholesalers also play a relevant role in the distribution of food in France. Their main function is that of studying the market and products, finding the suppliers and negotiating purchasing agreements. In France there is a Central Purchasing Offices which supply supermarkets on a regional basis which means that different stores may be being supplied by the same regional central.

Each wholesaler negotiates the supply of all or part of an outlets requirement and may be working for several chains at the same time. Although each chin and wholesaler’s method of working may vary slightly, in general it takes the form of three stages: acceptance of a supplier; in the French Market the product and placing the order. Generally payment terms are 60 days, longer than in the UK or Germany but shorter that in Italy and Spain.

5. Possible Barriers to Entry in the French Market

Whilst membership of the European Union means that, as such, there are no barriers to exporting to France (quotas, tariffs, etc.). Nevertheless, there are a number of peculiarities in the market that may cause problems to Spanish firms wishing to sell in France.

The main points or barriers to be taken into consideration are:

  • The difficulty of dislodging current suppliers
  • The strictness in complying with the requirements of the market.
  • The use of the methods of payment most common in France: cheque for national business and bank transfer at 60 days for international deals.
  • The use of French for communication. This may seem obvious, but the use of French in negotiations and for communications gives one a considerable advantage.
  • Literature and catalogues in French.
  • French Purchasing Managers are very highly knowledgeable and have a very good idea of new trends and what is happening both at home and abroad.
  • Making sure that logistics are well planned.
  • Identify and fill market niches: the French market is, as can be imagined, a very mature and saturated one; which means there is great competition when trying to sell ready meals in France.

We recommend you keeping these points in mind when planning your strategy for the French market.

France is a pioneer in the use of BOB (white labels) (MDD in its French initial) and, very often a foreign company will find this an easier channel to break into the market. Obviously, the Spanish company will be expected to comply with all existing requirements and to fulfil the legislative requisites, and adjusting ingredients and packaging to the customer’s needs. However, entry through this channel means considerable savings in marketing and advertising which are, logically, borne by the client.

As far as packaging is concerned, it must be remembered that not only should this be in French and comply with EU rules, but must also comply with the very strict French legislation on the language (Toubon Law).

Relevant Fairs:

SIAL – Salon Internationalde l’Agroalimentaire (www.sialparis.fr)

Salon International de l’Agriculture (www.salon-agriculture.com)

MDD Expo (www.mdd-expo.com) 

Sources

Étude du secteur des plats cuisinés appertisés, Observatoirede la Qualité de l’Alimentation 2010.

Les Plats Cuisinés, Master Agroalimentaire, Université de Lille 2010-11

Fabrication des Plats Préparés, Panorama des Industries Agroalientaires, éd 2014

 

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