Eleven of the products are suitable for vegans, and are all preservative- and palm oil-free.
While not completely absent in the French foodscape, vegetarian brands, such as Sojasun or CéréalBio which manufactures ready meals and sauces, have remained niche and are often found in the organic section. This gives them a higher price positioning and less shelf visibility.
“The impetus given by private label could see brands increasingly try to occupy this space,” says Moreau.
Food analyst at Euromonitor International, Raphael Moreau, told FoodNavigator that the vegetarian category is less developed in France compared with other European markets such as the UK, and it therefore has strong growth potential.
While the supermarket is claiming to be the first retailer to offer a full range of private label vegetarian options, frozen food retailer Picard already offers a number of meat-free ready meals and Auchan has two. But Carrefour, which collaborated with the Vegetarian Association of France to develop the products, is firmly marketing its 16-product range to vegetarians, flexitarians and vegans.
He says the range could also inspire other retailers to extend their ranges. “Carrefour intends to appeal not only to vegetarians but also to the growing number of 'flexitarians' who are adopting a meat reducing diet, [so] other retailers are likely to see growth opportunities in adopting a similar positioning.”
Private label innovation?
Does this mean private label brands are the ones driving product innovation in France? Not necessarily, says Moreau.
In fact, private label has seen some stagnation unlike in most other European countries, as brands have pushed their prices down to compete in a price war. “[This means] private label has not made significant gains in the mid-price segment. In the premium segment, private label did not succeed as much as brands did in giving an image of authenticity.”
Carrefour says it identified a gap in the market for vegetarian ready meals following the launch of ‘If I were Carrefour…’ two years ago, an online platform which allows consumers to submit ideas to the chain. Ideas that received at least 10,000 votes are considered for commercialisation.
Consumers are invited to send in their suggestions for improvement in five categories: environment, shopping, children, eating well, loyalty and Christmas.