Behind the boom in organic farming, a profound change in consumption in France

“Organic consumption is taking hold in France. It is no longer a fashion phenomenon, it is a social phenomenon.” The director of the Organic Agency, Florent Guhl, did not hide his satisfaction this Thursday, February 21 by presenting the results of the barometer of the consumption and perception of organic products in France carried out with Spirit Insight. Nearly nine out of ten French people –88% to be precise– claim to have consumed organic food products in 2018. And if the share of daily consumers is losing ground, that of regular consumers, that is to say in less than once a month, is relatively stable and represents around seven in ten French people. Above all, new regular consumers are progressing: 17% have been so for less than a year, against 9% in 2017, a sign of a renewal of consumers.

Fruits and vegetables, dairy products and eggs remain the three most consumed categories of organic food products but in addition to the plate, organic products are also invading the homes of the French: 61% bought them during the last year on the niche household products and 57% for cosmetics and hygiene products. A fundamental trend that is part of a broader approach to responsible consumption. Because 57% of French people say they have changed their buying habits and eating habits. How? ‘Or’ What? By trying to avoid waste for 61% of them, by buying more seasonal products, fresh products or by favoring short circuits for more than one in two or even by actually buying organic products for 43% . “We are in a global approach of which organic is only one element”, comments Florent Guhl.

Young people sensitive to ethical reasons and animal welfare

Enough to give pride of place to responsible and local consumption. The Cetelem 2019 Consumer Observatory published last week also showed that nearly one in two French people considers that encouraging the purchase of products made in France is “a top priority”. Why? 44% consider it to be an act in favor of the environment. And food products are leading the products that the French seek to consume locally. The Agence bio barometer confirms this trend: regular organic consumers want to find more organic products from their artisans, and in particular from bakers and greengrocers. And to buy their organic products, 92% of regular consumers consider that the French origin of these is important.

This search for more responsible consumption is even more marked among the younger generations. New consumers of organic products (those who have been organic for less than a year, ie 17% of regular consumers) are thus over-represented among 18-24 year olds, at 27%. The reasons that led these young people to consume organic also illustrate their concerns. Admittedly, they place health as the first concern, but it is only cited by 62% of 18-24 year olds when this reason is cited by 69% of the entire population. Conversely, ethical and social reasons and animal welfare are more significant among young people than in the rest of the population (32% against 25% for the first and 37% against 28% for the second). They are also more inclined to consider that an organic product can be more expensive… even if the price remains one of the main obstacles to their consumption.

All these elements show that consumption is indeed evolving in France towards more organic, more local, more responsible. A phenomenon to which large-scale distribution – which remains the main place to buy organic produce – has been trying to adapt for several months: Franprix which is rolling out its Noé concept, Leclerc which opened its first organic store in October, Carrefour which launched its “Act for Food” program… A phenomenon on which a large number of start-ups are surfing and which could also be felt in the aisles of the Salon de l’Agriculture, which opens this Saturday.

Methodology: The barometer of consumption and perception of organic products in France Agence bio / Spirit Insight was carried out online in November and December 2018 with a representative sample of 2,000 French people aged 18 and over.