Guest article

Understanding the French consumer attitude towards baked goods

By Gill Hyslop

- Last updated on GMT

The French consumer's attitude towards baked goods is rapidly shifting. Pic: GettyImages/stockfour
The French consumer's attitude towards baked goods is rapidly shifting. Pic: GettyImages/stockfour

Related tags FMCG Gurus Online shopping France Bakery market Shelf life pre packed baked goods Bread viennoiserie artisan

With the advent of everything from online shopping to trends like ‘good for me and ‘good for the Earth’, insights show the French consumer’s attitude to baked goods is rapidly changing. Andrew Crofts, senior research analyst at FMCG Gurus, delves deeper.

Pre-packaged products dominate the French bakery market.

Looking at FMCG Gurus research from the 2019 France Pre-Packaged Bakery Survey (1,000 respondents), we see that bread is the most popular product eaten at least once a day, consumed by 45% of consumers.

Crispbread then overtakes to become the most commonly consumed product at least once a week, with 75% against the 70% who consume bread on a weekly basis.

Bread still holds a strong traditional position as a daily staple – significantly ahead of most other products – but the success of crispbreads over the longer period indicates there is a shift towards other products as a snack option, possibly as part of weight-loss or healthy eating regimes.

Fresh bakery

FMCG Gurus’s 2019 Fresh Bakery Survey (1,000 respondents) reveals savoury bread products are the most popular item over the course of the week (56%), followed closely by viennoiserie (54%), indicating a tendency towards more snack-like products in the fresh bakery category.

Insights show these are products are most often eaten at lunch or in the afternoon – 69% of savoury bread products are consumed in the afternoon and 67% of viennoiserie at lunch – suggesting they are commonly enjoyed as treats or snacks.

This fits with a general pattern of consumers moving away from set, sit-down meals, and towards on-the-go options: meals that are less structure and more likely to be eaten on-the-go.

In many ways, fresh bakery is the ideal category for this, as these are sold in cafes and artisanal bakeries, as well as supermarket or convenience outlets. Indeed, both viennoiseries and savoury bread products are most commonly bought in supermarkets, where they are often advertised as convenient treats for on-the-go.

Consumer insight shows supermarkets are also the most popular point for the purchase of pre-packaged bakery products, with almost two-thirds of all consumers – and as high as 89% in the sourdough bread category – regularly buying baked goods in these outlets.

Despite the dominance of the supermarket, however, other channels are growing in popularity.

Artisanal bakeries are becoming increasingly prevalent, with almost a third of all consumers buying fresh and pre-packaged baked goods from an artisan or independent high street baker. Fresh edges ahead here (31%,), but pre-packaged is close behind (29%), suggesting these sellers have secured a strong position with both categories.

Online shopping

A newer development in the food industry over the past couple of decades is the emergence of online shopping. Approximately 56% of French consumers indicate they are willing to purchase bakery products online, with treats like viennoiserie and ball donuts being the most popular items (81% each).

This suggests consumers are as likely to succumb to impulse purchases when shopping online as they are in person.

The primary reasons some consumers are unwilling to purchase online are simple: firstly, they prefer to choose product themselves as they do not trust retailers to send them the best possible product; and secondly, they are concerned about the freshness of the product as it is picked and transported.

Freshness is vital to consumer satisfaction, partly due to potential issues with flavour and enjoyment, and partly due to worries about shelf life and product longevity.

However, 65% of those who refuse to purchase online say they could be encouraged to do so if they received reassurance about product selection, delivery, freshness and shelf life. Only 13% of overall consumers indicated they could not be convinced to purchase baked goods online at all, suggesting a total distrust of the process.

Re-evaluating health

Despite these concerns, the internet is not the first choice of avenue for the purchase of fresh or pre-packaged baked goods. Only 32% of consumers said they checked for freshness all or most of the time, most likely checking this for baguettes (57%) in prepackaged, and muffins/cupcakes (59%) in fresh.

More popular claims vary: consumers are most likely to want their fresh-baked goods allergen-free (40%), and their pre-packaged products to be low in sugar and high in fibre (both 40%). The focus on allergy claims indicates consumers are wary that products are not produced in ‘clean’ factories and prefer to ensure their dietary needs are met with a more artisanal product

The focus on fibre and sugar is a sign of consumers leaning towards a healthier lifestyle. Making the food you eat work harder for you without significantly changing your diet is an increasingly common theme, part of what FMCG Gurus describes as the ‘Re-evaluating health’ trend.

The modern world has brought enormous technological benefits, and these are changing how consumers see every aspect of their shopping experience.

Whether it is what goes into the food they eat; what products they favour and why; or even the motivations and need states that drive how they make a purchase; consumer insights show attitudes have shifted and, more than ever before, it is vital to keep up.

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