Could the Covid-19 crisis accelerate the sustainable consumption trends that have been gaining momentum in recent years?
How did the French make their choice in stores during the coronavirus crisis? If a third buys “the available”, the other two thirds claim to favor “the responsible”, according to an OpinionWay survey for Max Havelaar (NGO in favor of fair trade) carried out with more than 1,000 people in mid-April and unveiled Tuesday May 5. The local is doing well (45%) – even if the French do not see themselves doing without imported products such as rice, chocolate or coffee – as well as made in France (39%) as well as organic (29%). So will these consumer trends that have been gaining momentum for a few years come out as the big winners of the Covid-19 crisis?
“In 2019, there was a very strong awareness of environmental issues and we are witnessing for the moment a deepening of the trends that were developing with a push for the desire for responsible consumption, recognizes the economist Philippe Moati, co- founder of ObSoCo. There is a context conducive to the rise of responsible consumption trends: people feel responsibility for small producers and empathy for employees present in large retailers for example. And the virus is seen by some as a warning given by nature. “
“I think we are going to witness the emergence of a Covid-19 generation with changes in the way of eating,” says Sylvain Zaffaroni, co-founder of the committed media “To feed tomorrow”, at the initiative of a community of the same name bringing together 17 agrifood companies (including D’aucy, Fleury Michon or even President) with the aim of exchanging on the food of tomorrow and who is working on a white paper on the consumption of French people after containment. “We observe an axis of virtuous consumption with the development of organic, local because these trends clearly include elements of reassurance for the consumer: psychologically, there is the idea that we are fighting against the disease. And there is also refocusing on basic products, consumer products such as flour or eggs. “
According to the figures, organic sales have really taken off again with the crisis: the week of March 15, that in which containment came into effect causing a shopping spree among the French, organic recorded + 63% compared to 2019 against + 40% for conventional, according to Nielsen. Same difference the following weeks: + 49% for the first against + 31% for the second the week of March 22 and + 22% and + 5% respectively the week of March 29. “Organic products, perceived as more natural than the others, remain sought after by consumers, especially in a period of doubt, where products seen as globalized are under fire from critics,” said Antoine Lecoq, analytical consultant at Nielsen, in the press release. But the increase is also explained by other factors: if a department is empty, consumers turn to what they find … like organic products less affected by stock shortages. It should also be emphasized that the weight of organic products is strong in convenience stores or in e-commerce: two circuits favored during confinement.
Iri also notes this boom in organic, stressing that during this crisis, its growth was multiplied by 2.5 (+ 32% against + 13% before crisis)… But the panelist recalls that the conventional saw its growth multiplied by 8 passing from + 2% to +16 %. And he also partially sees a mechanical effect on this surge of organic. The products on which the shortages were the most (re) marked thus saw the organic offer boosted: + 131% on pasta or + 108% on rice for example. Iri also notes that consumers gave up visiting organic stores during the crisis to optimize their shopping, also causing an increase in organic in general stores.
The purchasing power variable
So where will the French move after the crisis? According to the OpinionWay survey for Max Havelaar, almost 7 in 10 French people (69%) believe that this crisis is “an illustration that we must change our consumption methods for more responsible products (local, organic, fair trade, without packaging) etc.) “. “But consuming responsibly is expensive,” points out Philippe Moati of ObSoCo, recalling that the price has always been and is always an important choice criterion in the act of purchase. Especially since 40% of French people indicated in a ObSoCo study of November 2019, before the crisis therefore, to impose strong restrictions in their budget for food. A PwC France study carried out with Kantar confirms this fact: when asked about the main criterion that will decide their food purchases after confinement, 43% of those questioned indicate the price, ahead of French production for 32% and a healthy and / or organic composition for 20%. “We will end up with two-speed consumption linked to purchasing power,” says Sylvain Zaffaroni. “The crisis will strengthen the community of consumers already converted to organic and local and who can afford it, but there will be a base of consumers who will not have access to it.”
Companies will all the more have an essential role to play to meet the environmental and responsible expectations of the French while offering affordable responsible. An equation not necessarily obvious. Especially since if on the food side, the Hexagon has a local production well established, this is not necessarily the case of other sectors such as clothing. And that the big companies and the big brands had to count these last years with a relative distrust of the French towards them. “I think there will be a real revival of interest in French food brands: consumers will realize that there has been no shortage, that agrifood companies have been able to adapt, to reorganize during this crisis and that they have refocused on their mission to feed the population “, anticipates Sylvain Zaffaroni. The messages conveyed and the reason for being of companies will in any case be at the heart of the consumption of tomorrow. And the French are ready to respond. According to the PwC France / Kantar study, 36% of French people would therefore favor traders who have worked positively in the fight against Covid-19 and 26% would show solidarity with traders who have suffered.