Last year the number of organic producers in France rose by 23 per cent compared to 2008.
"In 2009 each month saw more than 300 producers signing-up to the state's organic scheme," estimates the country's organic agency Agence Bio.
In 2008, organic food products hit €2.6bn, representing 1.7 per cent of the overall national food market in France. While still just a small slice of overall food sales in France, the organic market has proven to be resilient in the face of a recession that has otherwise knocked market growth. In 2009, 46 per cent of French folks consumed at least one organic product once a month.
Island of growth
And described as a 'veritable island of growth in a lifeless food market', a recent report from the French Institut Precepta estimates the organic market will grow by a healthy 8 to 10 per cent each year until 2012.
Socio-political factors combined with environmental concerns - plus the recent government measure that aims for 20 per cent organic food in state catering (schools, state-run offices, hospitals et al) by 2012 - are all feeding into this burgeoning market.
Further propelling the organic march is the diversification of organic supplies that have dovetailed from the bare essentials, such as milk, flour and butter, to more elaborate and sophisticated ranges, like biscuits and ready-prepared foods. In 2008, supermakets, hypermarkets and specialist organic shops witnessed the lion's share of purchases, pulling in 82 per cent of organic sales.
Expanding consumer choice for organic foods has contributed to the dynamics of a market that is also enjoying full-on marketing strategies to reach the consumer.
According to their first estimates for 2009, Agence Bio has calculated about 3600 new producers joined up to organic agriculture, a pace of growth not witnessed since 1995, and which brings the overall total of organic producers for the country to 16 400.
While players in the entire organic supply chain in France, including ingredients firms and processors, numbered 25 000 at the end of 2009, a marked 20 per cent leap on the previous year.
In terms of geographical regions that are emerging as organic 'baskets', the Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France demonstrated a strident 35 per cent growth in organic land parcels, followed by the l’Ile-de-France - the zone on Paris' doorstep - with 33 per cent, and Provence Alpes Côte d’Azur marking a dynamic 30 per cent growth.