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Traditional shallots dominate French market
French consumers are notoriously well-informed about their produce, and when it comes to shallots, they usually go for traditional shallots over seed shallots. But as the shallot market reaches its full potential at home, French shallot growers are looking for ways to compete with the seed varieties abroad.
“French consumers really know the difference between seed shallots, which arrived on the market in the 1990’s, and traditional shallots ,which are planted, and grown in the authentic way,” said Pierre Batardiere of Daniel Cadiou, a French shipper of shallots, onions and vegetables from Brittany.
Also on the French market, we must identify on the label the growing mode of the shallots : “Echalote Traditionnelle” for the planted shallots or “échalotes issues de semis” for seed shallots.
“There are about 3,000 tons of seed shallots in France, so there is not much,” said Batardiere. “By comparison, we in Brittany do above 35,000 tons of traditional shallots.” Because traditional shallots are available by the end of June, a few months before seed shallots are on the market in September, the timing of each crop helps distinguish the two. But Batardiere also believes that the superior taste of traditional shallots, which are mostly grown in the Brittany region of France, gives the original shallot an edge.
“About 75 percent of the supply of traditional shallots comes from Brittany, and the mild climate and good soil gives them their taste,” he said. While shallot production has expanded beyond France, most of it is of the seed variety as its growing techniques are quiet similar to the onion according to Batardiere. Whether traditional or seed, though, increased production is finding receptive customers in Europe.
“The consumption of shallots is going up in Europe,” said Batardiere. “The French market is mature, the Belgian market is mature, but that's not the case elsewhere in Europe yet. So consumption is still going up for shallots in general either for the traditional or the seed ones. With such a promising road ahead, the challenge for shippers like Daniel Cadiou is to convince consumers around the world of the benefits of traditional shallots from Brittany.
“It's important,” pointed out Batardiere, “because a lot of countries that don't have natural markets may import shallots, so they're trying them for the first time, then better to do it with the traditional shallots which haave a very characteristic aroma and flavour. It's a challenge to educate a wider consumer base, but it's one that Daniel Cadiou is up to, said Batardiere.
“We've been in business since 1979, so we have a lot of expertise,” he said. “We know how to source the best quality shallots, we have standards and certifications that guarantee quality, we have excellent packaging and we can deliver quickly. We have a high-quality brand.”
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