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Natexpo: market situation gets more difficult

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

Natexpo in Paris came to a successful conclusion on Monday 17.10.2011. The trade fair for the organic and health food sector is held every two years on the exhibition site in Villepinte to the north of the capital and in the vicinity of the airport. While some of the manufacturers are delighted with their with double-digit growth rates, the retail trade is looking fearfully at the consumers. They are beginning to react more and more to the economic crisis they see around them – and they’re buying less in specialist shops. Competition in the retail wholefood trade – the number of organic supermarkets has risen significantly – and from the conventional trade is also dampening the spirits. Manufacturers and the trade are now injecting impetus into the market by introducing new strategies and product innovations. (Picture: Hall 8 in the Parc des Expositions in Paris-Villepinte bathed in sunshine)
With approximately 10, 500 visitors, the management of the fair is pleased with the response of the public from home and abroad. The attendance figure represents an increase of 11 % compared with 2009. The exhibitors will tell you that Saturday is always a rather slack day, but on Sunday and Monday, when the specialist retailers have their free day, the visitor numbers rise considerably. On the last day of the exhibition, at times some corridors were packed with visitors. The carpeted exhibition space in Hall 8 in Villepinte measured 6,600 m² compared with 5,500 m² in 2009 – an expansion of 20 %. Although the organic industry in France grew by 10 % to 3.4 billion euros last year (2010), this year the specialist wholefood trade is anticipating single-digit growth. Agence Bio still sees a green light for the organic industry as a whole: in the first half of 2011 the increase in turnover was again around the 10 % mark. (Picture on left: Visitors looking at new products: freeze-dried fruit)

“We’re reacting to the demands of the time and are removing palm oil from our product programme,” explains Pascale Corbi (on the right in the picture), who is responsible for exports at the bakery goods manufacturer Le Moulin de Pivert. He said customers kept on enquiring because of the destruction of the rainforests and in a two-year process, that would be concluded at the end of the year, they had changed their recipes. When the conversion process is complete they will be using French sunflower or olive oil or butter instead of palm oil in 34 products. This market leader in biscuits in the specialist trade in France already sets great store by regional cycles and sources its flour from a local organic mill. Light-coloured biscuits filled with chocolate and a children’s chocolate biscuit, the company’s leading products, are growing in popularity, including abroad. 10 % of production goes to Belgium, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Switzerland and Russia. The example of Moulin de Pivert shows manufacturers can meet more stringent requirements in terms of their CO2 footprint, transport (food miles) and deforestation. In France, the question of loyalty to the specialist trade is an important issue, since manufacturers would like to supply specialist shops with their inimitable and exclusive brands to create a clear distinction between them and the conventional trade.

Many organic manufacturers present product innovations at Natexpo and a whole chapter in the fair’s catalogue is devoted to them. Twelve of the new products in four categories – organic food, health food, natural cosmetics and eco-goods – were selected by a jury as products of the year. A separate area for new products was created near the entrance to the fair. More information about the award-winning products on (Picture on left: Special display area for new products)

Some of the innovative products come from small organic manufacturers like Croustisud. Located in the Ardèche region, the company produces sliced dried vegetables that are sold in the specialist trade as tasty crisps in 70 g bags. Instead of potato crisps, the consumer can now buy a variety of colours and flavours like thyme-carrot, rosemary-parsnips, cellery or beetroot. So far, this small manufacturer’s products are sold only on the French market. (Picture on right: Attractively packaged dried vegetables)

Chocolates made with fair trade cocoa from Peru are offered by Saldac (picture), a manufacturer in Provence (Montélimar) that was present at Natexpo for the first time. A good dozen different sorts are not only available in 100 g bars but also in small packs for restaurants. The company works directly with a Peruvian cooperative in central Peru that supplies not only cocoa but also coffee, tea, quinoa and products made from tropical fruit.

Along the lines of BioFach, an eco textile department (picture) was created for the first time at Natexpo. Whilst single clothing stands have already exhibited at Natexpo, the idea this time was to create a joint presentation for eco textiles in general. However, this was not a complete success. Julia Bronislawa, who was present in the textiles area, complained that under the ceiling banner “Espace Mode et Textiles” only seven of the twelve natural textile stands were to be found. She said that she was attending the fair for the second time with her natural clothes that are made in Poland and sold in France and Germany. That’s where she finds clients who, among others, are wholefood stores that sell natural textiles as well.

Grandir bio” (grow up organic) was one of the themes running through the exhibition and the catalogue with an appealing logo. In this way, firms that presented special products for children and young people were able to draw particular attention to themselves.

The proportion of German brands (estimated at 10 %) had never been as high as this year. More and more manufacturers would like to benefit from the very good growth rates experienced by France in recent years and were represented with their own stand – for example, Lavera, Keimling, Isana, Regulat and OMA – or by an importer. Two of the wholesalers who present German firms in France are Claus-Pural and Europ-Labo. It’s not by chance that they have their headquarters near the German border with France in Baden and in Alsace. Europ-Labo represents mainly traditional German health food brands like Vitaquell, Bösen, Kanne, Dr. Bahlke, Liebhart Gesundkost and the Swiss health food manufacturer Morga, plus Rosengarten and Tinti, the manufacturer of children’s bathwater colours. (Picture above: In good spirits – Ulrike Claus and her father Heinz Claus with employees)

“We’ve got 30 employees on our stand” says Heinz Claus, delighted with the number of exhibitors sharing the 130 m² presentation: Herbaria, Soto, Rabenhorst, Jentschura (in the picture on the right delivering a company lecture), Andechser, Naturcompagnie, Cotton People, Schär and Salus. The dairy Weißenhorner Molkerei was represented by its new French brand La Corne blanche.

Ecolive, a new commercial agency, presented itself on the stand of Taifun The aim of the start-up company belonging to Gregory Gicquel (picture) and Olivier Poteaufeux is to present manufacturers in Germany and France at trade fairs in each other’s country. In addition, for low budget marketing they offer telephone and mail campaigns, follow-up campaigns, tasting sessions and visiting wholesalers and organic supermarket chains. Byodo, Barnhouse, Euronat, Destination and others are already working together with the two entrepreneurs.

In recent years, Taifun has invested a great deal of effort in expanding soya cropping in Europe. 70 % of the 2,000 t used every year comes from the region round Freiburg, the headquarters of the soya processer, and from France, Austria and Italy. In 2010, Taifun achieved above-average growth of 18 % on the French market. The figure for this year is expected to be 8 %.
(Picture on right: The Taifun team round Jesus Bastante - in the middle – inviting people to taste variously flavoured tofu)

Considering it was a specialist trade fair, the speaking events at Natexpo were not optimally organized. More than 30 events were held in two rooms that were hardly separated by partitions from the bustle of the fair. Moreover, the rooms were far too hot. All this meant that it was difficult to relax and listen to the speakers, which was regrettable in view of the interesting contributions. The themes ranged from the state of the organic market in Germany, Italy and Britain and various company lectures to Fair Trade. It was a pity also that speakers were not able to deliver product-related company lectures, clearly separated from other issues of general interest and in a quiet environment.

The lighting in some parts of the exhibition halls left much to be desired. Areas that did not have light from outside, such as the wine tasting, were at a disadvantage. 24 stands of wineries in France offered a whole range of wine tasting, and in the lunch hour and the afternoon the visitors made good use of this facility, as reported by two ladies handing out the wine (see picture). The service for journalists was minimal. In the press centre two little tables had been provided, each with a bottle of water, not exactly designed to bring in representatives of the press. There was, however, compensation in the form of many generous tasting sessions on the professional stands of manufacturers and wholesalers.

Conclusion: Despite a number of shortcomings regarding professional organization, Natexpo, that is held only every two years, is a must for anyone involved with the French organic market. Like all specialist trade fairs, it reflects the discussions, current developments and the mood of people in the organic scene which, as in Germany, enjoys largely clear demarcation from the conventional trade. For various reasons, the strong growth rates of recent years are expected to level off this year and in the coming year. Above all, creating more efficient structures is on the agenda of the specialist trade to help them in the medium term to stay in touch in terms of price and to survive the competition. (Picture on right: Top-quality lemonade by Elixia)





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