Food products in France have felt the full force of inflation. As a consequence, purchase volumes have fallen by an unprecedented 4.3% compared with last year, and some French households are now facing the genuine risk of food insecurity.
While inflation is slowing, it is still at a record high, increasing by 20% over the past two years. Consumers are trying to soften the impact this is having on their wallets by changing their day-to-day shopping habits.
They are going to the shops more often, but putting fewer items in their trolley. In fact, 70% of household spending decisions are now geared towards reducing purchases. They are also focusing their spend on essential categories, and cheaper everyday products.
Reducing waste remains the most popular anti-inflation solution for French people, with 48% of households employing this strategy, which combines simplicity, economy and sustainability.
French people are cooking fewer hot meals to save energy, which is the other key variable when it comes to adapting to a smaller budget. Meals typically contain less animal protein, and are heavier – with more starch, legumes and eggs – and are sometimes now eaten without a starter or cheese course. Consumers are refocusing their menus, and devising recipes that are more practical and quick to cook. However, they are not willing to skimp on pleasure!
The anti-inflation basket
Competitive prices and promotions are the most important criteria for shoppers when choosing a product or a store, and they are more of a priority than health benefits. Consumers are also buying more retailer private labels, and these gained 2.7 points in market share in the first eight months of 2023. Brands have struggled to defend their positions.
French shoppers are having to choose between responsible consumption and cutting costs – and the balance is tipping more towards the latter. The ‘dietary transition’ category, which includes for example products that are organic or sustainably sourced, has fallen in popularity, with household spend dropping to 21.1% from 22.1% in the first eight months of 2022. Health products with simple promises such as ‘free from…’, along with environmentally friendly and local products, still have their place in shoppers’ baskets. Organic products are suffering, however, and spend fell by 8% in the first eight months of this year compared to the same period in 2022.
France’s middle classes have been affected the most, and have had to cut food purchases and make sacrifices. Shoppers from lower socio-economic groups are the only ones to have increased their purchases compared to last year, as they restock their cupboards with essential and everyday products. They have also received state support which has helped them to keep their heads above water.
The longer-term perspective
If we take a look at sales over a longer time frame, FMCG volumes purchased per household are actually in line with the levels we were seeing 10 years ago. Comparing the first eight months of 2023 with the same period in 2022, sales volumes have grown by 0.5%. While we do need to take into account a small population increase, the number of grocery products purchased per household has risen from 1,393 in the first six months of 2013 to 1,420 in the first half of 2023. This is well below the 1,486 items purchased in 2021, during the middle of the COVID crisis, when eating at home was at historically high levels.
This is not the case for fresh products, however. Sales volumes have plummeted, falling by 6.4% since 2019 and by 3.4% compared with the first eight months of 2022. Households are increasingly doing without certain foods, such as fish (-6% in volume), meat (-3%) and fruit and veg (-4%).
Consumption at home has also been negatively impacted by the recovery of eating out. With the recent good weather, eating out of home (OOH) is returning to pre-COVID levels, and there has been a 16% increase in customers frequenting commercial catering outlets in the first eight months of 2023, compared with 2022.
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The results are obtained from the new MyWorldpanel – 2023 platform. Panel of 20,000 French households.