Covid-19, Shock wave

Consumption patterns upended

➔ Return to basics

“We are at war.” These words from the French President made their mark. While few French retain a living memory of France in wartime, everyone had the same deep-seated instinct to stockpile basic goods : rice, pasta, sugar, flour… In this climate of anxiety, farewell to small pleasures and luxury purchases, the hour is dark and the future is uncertain… As for cheeses, soft paste, young cheeses were ignored in favor of buying grated Emmental, or sliced cheese for hamburgers or croques-monsieur.

“The small specialized local cheeses and many of the AOPs were sacrificed,” according to Gérard Calbrix, Director of Economic Affairs for the Association de la Transformation Laitière Française (ATLA) (France’s milk processor’s association). “Supermarket chains, facing personnel and logistical problems, had to make choices, and as a result closed many cut-to-order counters, where many of these products were sold.” Farewell to flavored, seasonal products, or those that couldn’t be expected to keep in a fridge at home for very long, like soft-paste, washed rind cheeses.

“Consumers aren’t buying as usual,” confirms Véronique Cauvin, cheesemonger in Vannes, “They have abandoned goat cheeses, and are settling for the basics like Comté, Gruyère, tommes… We do still have the occasional orders for ‘pleasure platters’ for two, for the weekend, or for a birthday, but those are really the exception.”

1.2 million residents fled Paris in the space of a single week.

➔ Get cooking

Parents with children confined at home 24/7 caused an explosion of baking ingredients sales : eggs, milk, cream, butter….whose sales were at times quadrupled. “BOF is back” (Butter-eggs-cheese, an expression from World War II) sums up Anick Polèse, Lyonnaise cheesemonger. A craze in evidence everywhere. Consumers are also buying ‘kids’ cheeses’ like BabyBel or La Vache Qui Rit.

➔ Going green

Stunning population transfers also transformed the map of commerce : 1.2 million residents fled the greater Paris metropolitan area for the country in the space of a single week, between March 13th and 20 th, according to statistical analysis based on data from the telephone company Orange. These departures emptied the ‘fancy neighborhoods’ of all France’s major cities, with a bit hit to the shops serving them. At the same time, the Paris region lost 100,000 tourists.

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