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Sharing meal belongs to French art de vivre

French food habits, sharing meal and conviviality

The 2nd part of our article on ‘French eating habits’ deals with the new life style and the Art de vivre à la française, the significant trends, and food spendings.

New life style and l’art de vivre à la française

Food habits are changing.

New eating trends are on their way in France. The French eat out-of-home more often. Snacking is getting a new habit. Time spent preparing and cooking of daily meal is shorter, nowadays.

French consumers are getting aware that resources as such are limited. As a result organic products and produces have increased their market share. Weekly market places attract consumers, where they can buy from field to fork produces. These are convivial places, offering fresh produces and locally transformed products.

Fresh fruit and vegetable on a market place in France

A farmer’s market place

French families tend to preserve the habit of sharing meal

at least once a week, especially their lunch on Sundays. On special events (birthdays, weddings, achievements …) the French meet and have good food and wines. This togetherness enables families and friends to strengthen social ties. According to Jean-Paul Kaufman, a French micro-sociologist, this is a matter of cultural heritage, and gastronomic age-old tradition. No doubt you have an idea of the French cuisine heritage. In 2010 it was honored by UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity 

Historical reasons explain the French food habits

La Poule au pot

Did you know that French King Henry IV (1553-1610) would measure the wealth of his kingdom and their inhabitants according to their Sunday lunch?

each farmer can eat a chicken

King Henry IV

King Henry IV  would have said: je ferai qu’il n’y aura point de laboureur en mon Royaume qui n’ait moyen d’avoir une poule dans son pot. (I will govern the country so that each farmer can eat a chicken).

Other historical reasons

explain the taste of the French population. Travels, influences of ancient colonies and more recently of immigrants have a real impact on the taste of French consumers. When they discover new flavors, products, and combinations they tend a recall their gustative souvenir! Although variations have to be introduced (less spicy, less hot) this trend offer an opportunity to test the French food market.

Significant trends in food and beverages consumption

Local production is a sector with the wind

In search of authenticity French consumers are eager to promote local sustainable development:

  • 71% want local short travelled items, from local producers (above other EU countries),
  • 44% buy seasonal products, with a preference for local ones.
Local markets offering fresh fruit and vegetables

Local, fresh produces

Food security is a hot topic

No doubt the recent food crises have led to put this topic high. For instance, the so-called Horsegate (2013) impacted the consumption of ready-to-eat, or canned meat. As a whole, French consumers’ confidence in the agri-food chain is being shattered.

Let alone, the opinion that GM cultures are not safe enough, that small farmers have few ways to escape major groups, that feeding the global population at the same level means deforestation, overcultivation or overgrazing. These concerns may explain the trend towards authenticity, ethics and short-travelled products.

Yet, French people still consider that France est le pays de la gastronomie (France is the country where gastronomy is an art); anyway the part of out-of-home meals is increasing yearly.

Sharing and snacking

Both have entered the French restaurants and French homes. TV dinner plate, lunch boxes, tapas, take-away, food-trucks and fast food gastronomy are the new trends.

Snacking, the new trendOut-of-home meal

French eating habits are based on:

  • eating at the same time,
  • socialising, and having some time for conviviality.

Despite the development of fast-food outlets, “meals in France still structure daily lives and relations with others. (Although) for the past 20 years alarmist commentators have repeatedly predicted the demise of the French meal”, according Thibaut de Saint Pol, a French sociologist.

Labels, ingredients and healthy considerations

On one hand the authorities launched debates and ruled on the labelling of food products in France (read our article on Food labelling and regulation). On the other hand media, blogs and medical professionals play a considerable role in changing the food habits. As a result, consumers tend to read the list of ingredients. They search for traces of allergens, preservatives, additives, E-numbers etc. Natural and organic are also leading the trend.

EU regulation insists on clear and readable foodstuff labels

Reading labels is getting a habit to search traces of allergens

Free-from products are gaining market shares. This is the consequence of the awareness of bad consequences of many food ingredients on the health. Posts and medical papers rise concern of food-borne diseases.

Food habits and budget in French households

Food spendings are important data for any market research when a food company wants to sell in France.

A survey conducted in 2015 concluded that the monthly budget required for a healthy diet in France is EUR 183,00 (GBP162.36) for a single person and EUR 669,00 (GBP593.56) for a family of two adults and two children. For information on the French Food Basket, click here

These figures concern Paris and its area, called Ile de France. Note that the cost of living is much higher in Paris, and large cities, such as Lyon, Toulouse, Marseille, and Lille.

2 229 621
855 393
500 715
458 298
231 491

Source Insee (National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies)

The French average household net adjusted disposable income per capita is USD 29.759 (about GBP 23,13) slightly higher than the OECD average (USD 29.016, GBP 22,55). UK figures are USD 26.687 (GBP 20,73) a year.

Yet we can wonder whether globalization would standardize palates. Not sure that French consumers are ready to cut off their taste for authenticity, sharing and conviviality when it comes to food and drink matters!

Our next article will present the differences between English and French food choices.

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I am Françoise L’Heveder, founder of Cortextuel. I am very proud to be a translator and I will help you communicate fluently with your French speaking network. Tomorrow you will be communicating clearly and effectively. Want to read updates on the French food, health market? Register at the website to receive my newsletter.

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