The year 2021 was marked by a number of key events for the plant-based food market in France. The year got off to a strong start with the organisation of the first French edition of Veganuary, which was so successful that the 2022 edition looks extremely promising.
The year was then marked by a growing vegan offer in the mass retail sector, thanks to the entry of major players such as Violife and the creation of a Veggie corner in certain Casino supermarkets. There were also some noteworthy launches: the nationwide arrival at Carrefour of bacon strips by La Vie, the new French start-up that made its mark in 2021, and the vegan pastries of La Boulangère. Lidl also organised a very successful vegan week in August, thanks to its own Vemondo brand products.
Plant-based products rewarded
2021 was also the year of the first Plant-Based Food Awards, which were created to highlight vegan food, the know-how of the sector and the delicious plant-based alternatives available on the French market. At the same time, French vegan start-ups and their vegan products have won awards in “traditional” competitions that were not only reserved to vegan products. This is the case for La Vie, which won the Special Jury Prize at the Snacking d’Or 2021, and HappyVore’s aiguillettes, which were elected Flavour of the Year 2021.
Democratising plant-based products through communication and marketing
2021 has inspired French vegan startups to innovate, not only with regard to R&D and product launches, but also in their communication and customer targeting strategies. The days when vegan products were only for vegans and were only available in specialised organic or vegan shops are definitely over. Companies are now targeting flexitarians and omnivores and, like the HARi&Co campaign, are calling on the French to give up their meat addiction. Les Nouveaux Affineurs even went out to meet the French to fool them into tasting the brand’s plant-based cheeses in the streets of Paris.
The billboard campaigns carried out in the Paris metro last December are another example of this desire to reach a wider public by making themselves known to all types of consumers. The metro is indeed the way to reach not only the largest panel of French consumers, but also tourists.
Another noteworthy event was the launch, in April 2021, of the French version of the vegan business magazine vegconomist.
French startups conquering international markets
In addition, we have seen in 2021 a real interest in exporting on the part of French companies. Les Nouveaux Fermiers, the leading French startup in meat alternatives, has changed its name to HappyVore. A name that better fits its new slogan “And they ate happily”, but also a strategy that will allow them to penetrate foreign markets more easily thanks to this new international name. Les Nouveaux Affineurs also aims to expand internationally, as evidenced by its participation in the Plant Based World Expo in London in October 2021. Indeed, international trade fairs are an excellent way to make oneself known to potential partners and to initiate collaborations.
France attracts foreign companies
As the French vegan entrepreneurial scene sets its sights internationally, foreign companies increasingly see France as a high-potential market, thanks in part to the growing flexitarian, vegetarian and vegan populations, as well as the veganisation of the retail and food service sectors. For example, Heura meat analogues, Novish vegan fish, Nafsika’s Garden cheese, LoveRaw chocolate bars and many other products have found their way into the French market.
According to a study by Kantar World Panel, in 2021, 49% of French households included at least one “flexitarian” concerned about reducing their meat consumption. This figure was only 25% in 2015, which demonstrates how quickly the consumer is changing in France and how important this market can be for foreign companies.
The food service industry is integrating plant-based foods
First of all, in 2021, the food service sector has increased its plant-based offerings in both restaurants and on online food delivery platforms, both with new 100% plant-based food chains and with “conventional” chains such as Domino’s, which has increased its offer of vegan pizzas in January 2021. In addition, the Climate and Resilience Act of March 2021 includes an amendment that will guarantee that all cooking courses (CAP, BEP, etc.) will include a course on how to prepare vegetarian dishes. This is proof of the urgent need to adapt training courses in order to change mentalities and contribute to the enrichment of plant-based offers in the years to come.
With regard to collective catering, in the framework of the EGalim law, the National Assembly voted in 2021 for a law making a vegetarian option compulsory from 2023 in all establishments managed by the State.
Conventional companies are entering the vegan space
Having long fought against vegan products for fear of competition, French companies in the conventional meat and dairy market have now realised that they had better embrace this change in order to continue to grow and generate new sales to help offset the decline in consumption of animal products.
For example, Danone announced in November 2021 that it would close one of its main dairy factory and convert it into a plant to produce vegan alternatives for the Alpro brand.
Herta has also launched new products under the Herta Le Bon Végétal brand and is offering more and more vegetarian or vegan products. The Savencia Group has launched its Tartare Végétal and its vegan range Vivre Vert, which includes yoghurts, milk and plant-based cheeses.
To end the year on a high note
And to round off 2021 on a high note, a number of 100% vegan Christmas markets have taken place. The emergence of these vegan Christmas markets is proof of the success of vegan products and the interest of the French in plant-based gastronomy. It also reflects the fact that most French people have vegan or vegetarian family members or friends for whom they are looking for ethical gifts that will appeal to their loved ones and match their values.
Overall, although the vegan market is growing rapidly in France and vegan choices are multiplying, France is still a relative latecomer compared to other international vegan market, which are developing exponentially in the Anglo-Saxon countries and in Asia-Pacific, as well as in its European neighbours, such as the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain. A very telling example here is Burger King, which in 2021 opened a 100% vegan fast food restaurant in Germany and Spain, while a simple vegetarian burger was launched in France.
So, 2022 is looking very promising and will kick off in style with the second French edition of Veganuary, which already has over 70 participating companies including Starbucks, Carrefour, Monoprix and UberEats. The event will be followed by the Veggie World Paris fair, which will return in April 2022. In addition, a number of launches are planned for 2022, both from independent companies and private label products.
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