Huge growth potential for French Fairtrade market

Related tags Fairtrade Fair trade

As French supermarkets embark upon the second ethical trading
promotion of the year this week, the latest survey of consumer
preferences carried out by the Casino group suggests that
increasing numbers of shoppers are prepared to pay a little bit
more for their food if by doing so they can support farmers and
growers in developing countries.

The promotion follows hot on the heels of Fairtrade Week in May and reflects the rapid growth in the French market for ethical products. According to Stéphanie Melikian of market analysts Leatherfood Food​, the French Fairtrade market was worth around €40 million last year, a 43 per cent increase compared to the year before.

"The rapid growth reflects the fact that the market is still very niche - in 2001 it was worth around €18 million, rising to €28 million in 2002 - and while Fairtrade will never be a mainstream business in France, it is likely to continue to show solid growth in years to come,"​ she told​.

New Fairtrade product launches are likely to be one of the main drivers of this growth. The French Fairtrade market consisted almost entirely of coffee until recently (which still accounts for 62 per cent of the market) but most of the growth is now coming from Fairtrade bananas: these account for some 30 per cent of the market by volume and have grown by a massive 769 per cent since 2001, according to Melikian. Chocolate and sugar are the other main Fairtrade products.

But these new product launches will only be successful if there is a market for them, and that is why the data on consumer attitudes makes for interesting reading. Casino's survey shows that 72 per cent of those questioned (1,000 adult consumers) would be happy to buy Fairtrade goods, although 34 per cent said they would only do so if they did not cost any more than 'conventional' products.

While this high level of consumer acceptance must be encouraging for French Fairtrade promoters, convincing more consumers to switch to ethically traded goods no matter what the cost difference remains the key factor.

Melikian said that Leatherhead Foods' research in the (more developed) UK market showed that price was relatively low down the list of priorities when it came to deciding whether to choose Fairtrade goods over 'conventional' ones, but this is perhaps partly due to the much wider availability of own label Fairtrade products.

As David Croft of leading Fairtrade retailer Co-op told FoodandDrinkEurope.comrecently​, since most own label products already retail for considerably less than their branded equivalent, it is still possible to pay a fair price for the product and keep the retail price below that of branded goods. For example, in Co-op's stores, a 100g jar of Maxwell House or standard Nescafé instant coffee retails for around £1.60 - still considerably more than Co-op's own label Fairtrade coffee which sells for around £1.39 a jar.

So retailers developing a wider range of own label Fairtrade goods could be one way of stimulating further growth in the market, but it is unlikely to be the only stimulus. A more widespread understanding of the ethical trading issue will be necessary to generate interest among the wider French public, Melikian suggested, and the Casino survey results seem to support this claim: those most likely to buy Fairtrade food no matter what the price were, not surprisingly, those on the highest incomes, but also those with the highest levels of education.

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