French retailer Casino is to open three specialist vegan outlets under its Naturalia organic supermarket banner. The stores will be located in Paris and its western suburb of Vincennes. They will offer around 2,000 products, all of which will be both organic and made from animal-free ingredients. The launch of these stores is being considered a trial for the niche concept.
When compared with other Western European countries, France has been a late starter to embrace the vegan trend. This is surprising, as the market has always been well-known for its innovation in manufacturer brands and private label development.
Market leader Carrefour introduced its Veggie range in late 2015, at a time when even the most no-frill retailers in neighbouring Belgium and Germany had long already dedicated shelf space to the topic. Earlier this month, Carrefour decided to expand the vegetarian private label to 32 items as a response to surprisingly good sales figures. Similarly, frozen food chain Picard launched its first own brand vegetarian ready meals only this year.
The launch of a dedicated vegan store in Paris and neighbouring Vincennes sounds like a smart move, since the trend has particularly boomed in big cities. It is actually a surprisingly late step for the second largest metropolitan area in Europe (after London). Naturalia Vegan will not face any strong competition – as there is basically no real competition across all of Paris – and impressive sales figures would be a logical result. However, when we compare late-starter France once again with Germany we might already be able to see the future of the format. After an initial boom of dedicated vegan supermarkets and cafés in larger cities in Germany over the last 5 years, we have now seen a significant number of these shutting down. For instance, store chain Veganz divested almost its entire network due to declining shopper demand, leaving only two outlets in Berlin.
The vegan food trend has already peaked in many Western European markets, where it turned out to be mainly a fad amongst average shoppers. The fact that retailers in France are so late to the game now could mean that the curve might be even more narrow in the market and it is very likely that it will turn out to be a short-term trend there, too. However, the catchment area for the stores in densely populated and affluent Paris is likely to be large enough to guarantee that there will always be a sufficient number of people shopping for vegan goods to justify the stores’ existence. Nevertheless, we anticipate that the initial peak of sales is certain to decline after a couple of years.