On 17 March 2020, French President Emmanuel Macron announced strict confinement measures in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. This meant that residents across the country were required to carry a signed travel pass, or attestation, whenever they left home. Failure to do so could result in a €135 fine.
As of last week (11 May), many of these restrictions have been lifted. New consumer behaviour developed during the lockdown, however, may not be so easily altered.
According to market insight firm Mintel, several weeks of containment have revealed growing consumer preference for at least two trends: local products and functional foods.
A move towards local
A market study conducted by Mintel revealed that during the confinement period, 27% of people in France did more of their shopping at local retailers.
This is perhaps unsurprising given France’s penchant for farmers markets and regional specialties. And indeed, prior to the COVID-19 epidemic, 39% of consumers said they already placed great importance on supporting local farmers.
“Support for local suppliers also helps support the national economy, which is an important aspect for the French, especially in this state of crisis. Even before the COVID-19 crisis, 40% of French people bought organic food to support local agriculture,” noted Caroline Roux, Global Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel.
“Transparency about where foods and beauty ingredients come from, while supporting local farmers, is likely to become even more important in the future.”
Coronavirus in France
While the first cases of COVID-19 in France were originally reported late January 2020, it is now suspected the novel coronavirus may have arrived in The Hexagon as early as early as December 2019.
Five months on, and France remains one of the worst-hit countries to date. As of 18 May 2020, the country had reported 140,036 total cases and 28,059 deaths. President Emanuel Macron announced strict confinement measures in response to the outbreak on 17 March, many of which were lifted just last week.
Driving functional product development
The market insight firm has also observed growing interest in functional foods and beverages across the country.
One-third (34%) of French people consume function foods and drinks known to be beneficial for the immune system, said Mintel. These products are particularly popular with people aged between 45 and 54.
However, regulatory barriers can hinder such products making functional claims, the company suggested: “Despite this popularity, regulations from the European Food Safety Authority make the use of claims difficult. According to Mintel’s Global New Products Database (GNPD), less than one percent of the food and beverages launched in France in the past two years had a functional claim linked to the immune system.”
In the long-term, Mintel’s Roux predicts the COVID-19 epidemic will emphasize the importance of food security and hygiene in all aspects of our lives.
“Compared to the consumption of food products, consumers will pay more attention to their state of health and their immune system to avoid getting sick. By positioning their products around physical and mental well-being, brands will be able to meet this consumer demand.”