Synonymous with proximity and quality, fine food is one of the most dynamic food markets. It must be admitted that, regardless of variations in purchasing power, households do not choose to reduce their spending on this category. Valued at between 7 and 9 billion euros, this market remains buoyant and its growth prospects appear to be inexhaustible. Gourmet and fine products are an affordable luxury that the French do not seem prepared to miss out on, whether during the festive season or for small and large special occasions. The French, including those in younger generations in search of meaning and values, are committed to the preservation of culinary heritage and regional know-how. So this is not just a passing fad, as is proven by the age of the big fine grocery brands.
The entire profession is doing well: sales in the sector are estimated at 1.5 billion euros and the turnover of the leading retailers increased by 2.5% in 2018. The good health of the market is also illustrated by recent openings of large department stores: La Grande Epicerie Rive Droite, Le Printemps du Goût, Galeries Lafayette Champs Elysees Food Court or Eataly.
Whether it's multi-brand concepts such as the stores mentioned above or single-brand stores like Petrossian, fine grocery stores have a real advantage: their strong brand. Often centuries old, these houses have a marked and singular identity that helps to create emotional value among their clientele. Characterized by the uniqueness of their offer and able to find the right balance between innovation and tradition, delicatessens are continuing to stand out and prove their durability, offering their owners true development potential.
The french in search of meaning and ‘eating well’
The activity of delicatessens corresponds to the aspirations of the French. They are becoming increasingly vigilant about the quality and provenance of products, but also attentive to proximity, hospitality and advice. These values perfectly match the positioning of delicatessen shops. Sensitised by public health awareness campaigns over the past 20 years, the French are increasingly aware of the impact of their diet on their health. In addition, various high-profile food scandals have dented their trust in fast-moving consumer products, which subsequently feeds through to their purchasing behaviour.
The arrival of mobile applications and sites providing nutritional benchmarks (Yuka, Open Food Facts, etc.) have exacerbated this concern for healthy or at least quality products. Among the various criteria, before actually purchasing, the French look closely at the nature of the products (ingredients, traceability of raw materials, nutritional intakes), but also their production methods (use of chemicals, respect for animal welfare, guarantee of fair remuneration for producers, etc.). It is therefore quite natural that consumers have a preference for healthy products (organic for example), gourmet products (acknowledged for their quality) or even local products that are reassuring.
Regional specialties and the notion of terroir are associated with traditional and authentic know-how synonymous with cultural and identity references: these are products packed with history and meaning. While price remains the most important criterion for 77% of French people in a food purchasing decision, 43% say they focus primarily on taste quality and 31% on provenance, figures that show a positive change in attitudes in favour of fine grocery stores.
In this movement, consumers logically turn to retailers capable of informing them and reassuring them about product origin and quality, concepts perfectly mastered by delicatessens, especially when these are integrated into upstream production. Local shops, especially in city centres, lie at the heart of French expectations, primarily due to geographical changes (urbanization, increasing concentration of employment in cities, acceleration of the pace of life, increase in the number of people living alone, etc.). Location has become a choice criterion, after those of price and quality, which severely penalizes suburban mass retail outlets that lose ground to small specialist food shops and urban supermarkets.
What prospects for 2022?
Thanks to their capacity for reinvention while maintaining a strong brand, the future for delicatessen outlets is looking bright. The turnover of leading retailers is expected to increase by 3% by the end of 2022, and that of independent grocery stores by 2.5%. However, the profession will have to beware of competition from high-end single-product shops and e-commerce sites.
The enthusiasm of the French for good eating, traditional small food shops and delicatessens will only grow stronger. The competing mass retail branded convenience stores will not grow as quickly as in the past, and will focus more on their star sections: organic and snacking. Unless a major event disrupts business, tourist traffic in France should remain on a structurally rising trend: a genuine opportunity for the major deli houses established in the heart of major cities and airports, but also for small independent food shops more specifically focused on regional products.
Already initiated by several major deli houses, several development vectors should be seized upon by the entire profession between now and 2022. Fine food stores will have to diversify their business activity by offering concepts of their own and in line with their strong branding and positioning. In order to fully exploit their potential and generate real added value, gourmet outlets will need to expand their offerings and turn towards digital technology or pursue international development.