Even if they shun organic, the French are committed differently to sustainable consumption

Even if they shun organic, the French are committed differently to sustainable consumption

No added sugar, free range, no palm oil, no pesticides… So many guarantees that consumers are sensitive to when doing their shopping even though they buy fewer organic products. The decline in purchases labeled AB, which has continued since the start of the year, does not mean that the French are no longer involved, quite the contrary.

With food inflation at 9.6% between September 2022 and 2023, according to figures published by INSEE on September 29, the French are logically making trade-offs to feed their homes. We have talked a lot about the strategies adopted to deal with this economic context, for example addressing the phenomenon of “trading down” consisting of preferring the lower range of a product that we are used to: we are more likely to buy the own brand from Carrefour, Leclerc or Intermarché rather than the national brand, like that of a Danone or a Nestlé. Above all, the French have limited food waste, designated by panelist NielsenIQ, which measures consumer trends in mass distribution, as the number one weapon to defend purchasing power. This is the most adopted way to deal with inflation (62%) well before food spending restrictions (25%).

Organic sacrificed

In this context, the French have also abandoned a range of products that had been on the rise for several years: organic. In a webinar organized this week, NielsenIQ revealed that the economic crisis has wiped out four years of growth for this shelf. Since the start of the year, organic has only accounted for 4.4% of the turnover of consumer goods, compared to 4.7% in 2022, 5.1% in 2021 and 5.2% in 2020. , its highest level. Fruit juices, long-life milk, eggs, yogurts and even biscuits… Yesterday’s organic stars are today the products sacrificed, particularly by the upper middle classes since 47% of the decline in organic products is attributable to choices of this household profile. The reason is of course the price. 60% of those we call “de-consumers” of organic products find that these items are too expensive compared to the benefits they provide. Furthermore, taking into account inflation, the gap has narrowed between the prices of a conventional product and its organic counterpart.

NO to diets, YES to WW!

A different commitment

However, we must not take shortcuts and consider that the French no longer want to pay attention to the environment or their health. In its latest study, the Kantar Insights Europe firm indicated that 95% of consumers would like to adopt more responsible consumption. If 82% consider direct sales as a solution, other identifications are now being made in supermarkets, thanks to notices which appear clearer and whose message is direct. Take the “no added sugar” or “open air” directions. These are the ones that are most identified by consumers (50% for each), with “produced in Europe” (48%), “no palm oil” (43%), “no added salt” (37%).

For “outdoors” for example, unit sales jumped 15.6% in the space of a single year. Items indicating “preservative-free” recorded an increase in unit sales of 12.3%. Conversely, products indicating “non-GMO” are down 11% while those displaying “organic” are down 10.3%, to which must be added the 9.1% drop in sales of items labeled ” without antibiotics” and 6.5% for the “eco” indication.

If the most successful mentions have more appeal to health than sustainability, they are considered a good compromise when we ignore organic. For example, 38% of French people consider that products marked “pesticide-free” are an interesting alternative. This different consumption is all the more under the radar as low-income households are attracted by these new offers deemed accessible, NielsenIQ analysis. And when we talk about alternative consumption, what do the French buy? Breakfast products, baby and animal food, and cooking items. They are less sensitive to this type of mention for pleasure purchases.