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Take the opportunity to know what French people like to eat  and their new food style!

French food habits: What French people eat

To be successful on the French food market, you can’t ignore the French traditional, and regional food heritage. This is the 1st part of a large article dealing with French eating style and changes, not to ingore.

Food and drink exporters have to be aware of the traditional, and current eating patterns.

Know French food habits and eating style

Eating as a social activity

If you know the eating food patterns of your end consumer you can adapt to better face competition. In France eating is as a social activity, in family or at work.

French traditional eating pattern is changing while fragmenting. French take a limited number of meals a day with 3.9 as an average, according to a 2012 survey. Yet snacking is soaring (1 % rise)..

More and more people have at least one meal a day out-of-home in canteens, cafeterias, or they have a lunch-box. Many buy a formule (sandwich, pastry or fruit salad, soft drink) and stop in a park with colleagues for mor conviviality.

Below: Examples of formules in French bakery, restaurants open for lunchtime, or food-truck (the latter is getting the most popular at the moment!)

Formule Lunch_boulangerie_France

Example of a Lunch formula in a French bakery


Lunch Many options

Lunch: choose the formula your please!


French food habits

Food truck in Strasbourg selling traditional alsatian food for customers


6€ Take-away formula for lunch

What do French people eat?

The French eat more meat and fish (20%) and drink more alcohol than in the rest of Europe. Bread is essential: a bread basket is always present on the table. Various type of bread explained here

Bread is a Must in France

Bread is a key element on French tables

French tables offer a large choice of food. The composition of meal changes a lot compared with other food patterns in Europe.
Yet the traditional three course habit tends to disappear: starter, main meal and desert. People use to skip the main meal when they choose starter –usually a mixed salad- followed by a desert.

Meals, at home v/s out-of-home

In France diner is the most important meal, especially because it is shared at home with family. Meals are mainly prepared by women (90 %). Presently about 1 out of 5 meals is taken away from home, more often it is the case for lunch. Going to restaurants is not a deeply anchored habit.

French nutrition and healthy guidelines

Health is a hot topic in France, too. The following issues are often debated:

  • nutrition and health obesity,
  • foodborne diseases,
  • heart and vascular diseases.

Restaurants, catering businesses, food and drink providers must follow several guidelines and good practices.

Healthy nutrition habits

According to a 2006 survey the French are not obedient. Less than 50% of the French population respect the recommendations of the NNHP (French National Nutrition and Health Program). Read more about French PNNS

programme PNNS

Campaign encouraging French population to adopt healthy food habits and to practise physical exercices

This program was developed in 2001 by French Health authorities. It deals, among others, with the number and the size of the portions of the following items:

  • Fruit and vegetables
  • Dairy products
  • Starchy foods
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Sweet products
  • Salt and
  • Water

Food labelling is a hot issue. The French parliament, and various organisations in nutrition as well as major distributors and retail businesses have been discussing about the items to be shown on labels.

Added fat

If you are in the business of canned food, or fast-food, be aware that portions are smaller in France.

Since out-of-home meals are more frequent, the catering industry must to take into account the recommended nutritional intakes. For example, French authorities and the GEM-RCN (Groupement d’Etude des Marchés en Restauration Collective et de Nutrition) have elaborated recommendations in terms of frequencies and portions of served foodstuffs for each type of population –early childhood, school environment, elderlies, and prison environment. This includes:

  • More fruit and vegetables, more starchy foods, more fresh produce to provide enough vitamins;
  • Less fat intake to restore the balance fatty acid consumption;
  • Less added carbohydrates;
  • More iron intake;
  • More calcic intake.
If you intend to get foot on French food and catering markets, these data are essential. Managers follow the various nutritional intake guidelines when they discuss with their food and drink providers.

The 2nd part of the article will be available within a fortnight. The following items will be dealt with:

  • Food budget in French households,
  • Significant trends in food and beverages consumption,
  • New life style and l’art de vivre à la française.

As a translator specialized in medicine, health, and food innovation I help English-speaking SME’s gather valuable data on the French market. Would you like get more information on the French market, I invite you to subscribe to my newsletter click here
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.
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