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French chicory season in transition

From the middle of last month to the middle of November, supplies of chicory in France will transition from old stock to product from this year's harvest. The season has been good for growers so far, but prospects for this season will become more clear toward the beginning of 2016. As for the long term prospects of the item, suppliers have to deal with changing consumption patterns.

“The very beginning of the season has been quite good,” said Marc-Henri Blarel of Perle Du Nord. “The transition we're in puts a sort of fog on the market, so we will be able to make a more accurate prediction later. But the market has been good so far.” Production is centered in the northern part of the country, and about 12 percent of the annual crop is exported to Germany, Italy, Spain and a host of Eastern European countries.

“The world market for chicory is still very much undeveloped,” said Marc-Henri. “A lot of people don't know about the product, so we have big expectations for the future.” One of the ways Perle Du Nord is trying to grow the market is with its retail packaging. Each package has a uniform amount of product and has specific designs to encourage its use in salads and prepared dishes.

“We think this is the future for the chicory market,” explained Marc-Henri. “We're trying to find the right answer for the consumer and always provide a longer shelf life and more efficient local delivery.” He added that French suppliers have had to change tack on past approaches to the market. Before, price considerations were paramount, but that was a mistake, according to Marc-Henri.

“To focus just on price was a failure because quality suffered,” he said. “Many things were done in the past to get high productivity at low costs, and the consequence of that strategy was big internal lapses. The global chicory paid for that with a big drop in volume, and Perle du nord was the very first one to switch in 2009.” In addition to doubling down on quality, suppliers will also have to find a way to get the youngest consumers interested in the product. While about 90 percent of people in France over the age of 50 consume at least one vegetable item a week, only about 60 percent of people between the ages of 21 and 25 do so.

“It's going to be very dangerous if we don't get the younger generation to consume vegetables,” said Marc-Henri. “There will be a much smaller take and we will all have to share if we don't get consumption up, so I think a lack of interest among young people is the most important threat to us at the moment.”

For more information:
Marc-Henri Blarel
Perle du Nord
Tel: +33 321 503 641

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