At the Porte de Versailles, in Paris
After three years of absence due to Covid-19, the Paris Fair has been making a comeback since Thursday. And with it, of course, the food stalls. Goodbye masks and confinements, and hello again to Corsican hams, olive oil from Provence, Breton salted butter caramels or nougats from Montélimar. Products that smell good of our regions.
But behind this decor to melt the taste buds, the smiles and the free tastings, a word runs through the heads of all the artisans: inflation. It reached 4.8% over one year in April, according to INSEE, including 3.8% for the food sector. A rise that is here to stay, since the World Bank estimates that the price of food products should remain high at least until 2024.
And high inflation like today, it’s not just more expensive products to sell… it’s also French people who consume less. Also according to INSEE, household consumption fell “significantly” in March, by 1.3%. “This drop is mainly due to the decline in food consumption (-2.5%) and, to a lesser extent, that of energy consumption (-1.6%)”, specified the National Institute of the statistics.
Will the French then turn to cheaper food products, even if it means abandoning the local and the artisans? “Inflation, we suffer it well, no need to see the figures, sighs at the Paris Fair Sébastien, master nougatier. Carrefour sells 100 grams of nougat for less than 2 euros, me for 7. We can’t fight. Obviously, it is not at all the same product. But when people have no money, there is no choice. »
Same sadness at Sandrine, whose stall displays tasty Bayonne hams and cheeses. Times are tough, far from the promises seen during the first deconfinement: “All these talks about short circuits, good food, local products… We expected crazy years after this awareness”. And here comes the war in Ukraine, rising prices and the anxieties of the French about the future. “We are like the others, we expected a lot from the famous world after. And finally, it turns out to be worse than before,” breathes the craftswoman.
Adapt your strategy
So, how to do ? The most obvious solution is to fight evil with evil, by cutting prices. Less per unit of product than with promotional offers, pleads Maxence, specialist in Corsican meat. For 20 euros, you have a whole range of sausages from the island. Profitable for our stomach, certainly, but for him? “We make very little margin, but it’s important to sell and show off. The times will be better afterwards, we are hanging on”.
The promotion has the advantage of allowing purchases by pack, which benefits Maxence: “There are fewer customers and they come less often, he says about his store on the Island of Beauty. Qaand we have one, it’s better to sell him a lot of products at once, because we don’t know when he’ll be back. And the more you sell, the more you can afford to make. »
Reverse total strategy at the nearby macaroons stand, where prices follow inflation and falling demand. “We have become a luxury product, you have to be paid as such if you want to survive. We make fewer purchases, so we sell more expensively. Simple economic logic,” Claude theorizes.
Branding the product
This is the general watchword, and the interest of being present at the Fair: to make the product known and to display its quality, to justify its price even in difficult times. “We have the same discourse on nougat as on meat: it is better to eat a little from time to time, but of good quality, than too much and bad”, laughs Sébastien, who has something to convince with his pistachio nougats from ‘Italy, peanut butter, and even CBD. Claude and his macaroons abounds: “We will not get out of it by selling at a loss or by making people believe that people can buy that every day. Let’s make sure to be accessible luxury and to be consumed as such. »
Despite her lost illusions, Sandrine continues to believe in better days: “The good days are here, people are going to invite each other more, organize outings, move around. Good times for our products.” Maxence’s last smile: “During the Covid-19, it was very complicated to work on our products or to sell them. There, we can at least work, we will not complain too much. Now it’s up to us to convince. »