Printer Friendly

France: Robustas continue to dominate the market.

France's coffee market structure is unique in the aspect that their history aligned themselves with their colonies. Coffee was brought in from the French colonies in Africa thus, Robustas eclipsed the market. The French like their Robustas and in 1985, France was a Robusta-dominated nation with 66.6% of the market. Robusta consumption has slide a little in deference to Arabica, and in 1991 was recorded at 52.8%. The present market now accounts for 50% Robusta products, 42% Arabica, and 8% decaf.

The French people pride themselves on their strong coffee and consider German coffee to be mild. (I personally was astounded by these references because I've found in my European travels, that German, Swiss, French, and Spanish coffee were quite strong for me, but after all, anything outside the U.S. seems strong to me.) Consumer habits surveyed found that 95% of everyone in France buys coffee at least once a year and everyone drinks coffee.

About 75% of people drink coffee in the morning. As I observed with both the French and also tourists staying at my Parisian hotel, it is in the morning that cafe au lait is drunk. The French consume their coffee black, with no milk or sugar, for the remainder of the day - 40% of the people don't use milk ever. Approximately 89% of the French drink a hot beverage in the morning, of which 60% take coffee and 12% take tea.

Coffee consumption is not considered high in France, amounting to approximately 4 kilos per capita per year (R&G: 3.87 kilo), and has remained stable through the past years. What has grown has been purchases of coffee outside the home as more women continue to enter the workforce. In house-consumption remains the same.

There is no industry for office coffee service as in the U.S. and the U.K., though coffee is present in some vending machines.

Kraft General Foods

Just outside Paris, enveloped within an industrial complex sits the new Kraft General Foods Group (incorporating Jacobs Suchard) in Villacoublay Cedex. A small sign greets visitors as you enter one of the three buildings in which the company recently took occupation. Throughout France, and especially Paris, advertisements line the bus terminals and dot the highways touting the benefits of Kraft General Food's product line: Jacques Vabre, Grand Mere, Carte Noire, and Maxwell.

Jacobs Suchard is the largest coffee roaster in France with 40% of the R&G and instant market. Douwe Egberts follows with 15% of the market, then comes Vadour Danon (Segafredo Zanetti), Legal, and Italian roaster, Lavazza, which holds a market share of 4%. Private labels brands account for 15-16% of the market. In the soluble sector, Nestle is the largest, of course, with 60% of that market. Jacobs holds 25%, and private labels and local brands account for the remaining 15%.

More coffee is being purchased from Central and South America, but still much comes from Africa. Robusta blends include Western Africa, Brazil Conillons, and Asias. Soluble products for the French market come from Holland and Germany. Between 110-120,000 tons of green coffee are imported yearly for the R&G segment.

The trend towards Arabica purchases have been positive, but the coffee sold in France is not the highest priced coffees. Aged blends of Arabica from Brazil, Colombia, Central America, Ethiopia, and Tanzania are sought by the company's purchasing department. Each producing country's production is growing, Gunter Fude, coffee purchasing director, tells me. Products in the EC are custom cleared and so there's no added taxes. (Import duties are paid at point of actual and final entry.)

The decaffeinated coffee product division is not at all as popular as it is in the U.S. While the French are looking at health concerns, coffee is not considered a health threat. But the French roasters also blame themselves for their decaf coffees, "Perhaps, we didn't develop tasty products." KGF has three decaffeinating facilities in France, one in Le Havre and two in Strassbourg. Jacobs uses water for decaffeinating France's coffee products and this distribution is in France only.

The Jacobs Suchard roasting facility is located in Montpelier in the South of France. It is the former brand roaster, Jacques Vabre, which Jacobs acquired years ago. Jacques Vabre is still the company's leading brand. Fichaux, in La Madeleine, is another roasting facility; this company roasts for themselves, as well as for Jacobs.

Brick packs are popular in France, in which Jacobs packs on SIG vacuum machinery. The valve packs are packed on Hesser machines which are part of the Bosch group. Soft packs with valves were launched at the end of the 1970's. Cans almost disappeared off the market, and they currently retain 1% of the market and may be promotional.

The whole bean market is decreasing in France. In 1982, 55% of Jacob's products were packed whole bean. In 1992, the demand shrunk to 10%, which now leaves 90% of the market consisting of R&G products.

At the time of my visit with Jacobs Suchard, their public relations, marketing, and green coffee departments, I asked Gunter Fude his view on the ICA. It was immediately after Cafe 92 - the Coffee Congress held in Jerez de la Frontera, and the European trade was clamoring for a new and fair ICA to better assist both the green importers and exporters. Fude stressed that he could live with higher prices for commodities, but the previous ICA should be unacceptable to all. "We'd like to see a better agreement, but the Agreement is more a U.S. problem than Europe's."


Oamcaf represent nine African-Robusta producing nations: Benin, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Congo, Cote D'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Madagascar, and Togo. Martin Nzie heads the organization whose headquarters are housed in an elegant townhouse overlooking the River Seine, between the Quai Anatole France. (It's a short walk to the D'Orsay museum, but I digress.)

Speaking with Mr. Nzie, he scolded me for allowing the Tea & Coffee Trade journal to perpetuate the notion that Robusta is an inferior type of coffee. "It is certainly not a bad coffee," he contended, "and it certainly has its market share and merits. Even with the free market we faced since July 1989, there still is a share for Robustas, and it definitely is not a narrow one."

Nzie is, nowadays, not a happy man. He fears for OAMCAF countries, as well as all of Africa as depressed coffee prices fall lower and lower. "If there's no hope for the farmers, how can they survive," he asks me. The African coffee countries are utilizing crop diversification, but coffee and cocoa remain their largest crops. Both commodities are administrative ones. That is to say even if the farmers could decide to abandon them, the national Administration would not agree. These authorities extend permanent control on the introduction of forbidden crops. Our fear is that with such a depressed market, the Administration could not maintain the discipline for a long term."

Nzie is strongly wishing for the return of the ICA in the hopes of saving his organization's industry and its people's genuine interests. "Without an ICA, the world coffee industry will certainly perish within 20 years," he states.

The OAMCAF countries produce between 9-10 million bags of good Robusta coffee per year. Agricultural studies for the past 25 years have cultivated the Arabusta - a cross between the Robusta and Arabica. Production of the Arabusta is growing on smaller farms and the Cote d'lvoires has been able to conform it to larger plantations.

Cameroun had 30% Other Mild Arabica production and the remainder is Robusta. Cote d'lvoire is the largest producer of coffee in Africa and OAMCAF, as a whole and unique ICO member group, is the third major producer in the world behind Brazil and Colombia. Togo and Central Africa has coffee similar to Arabica.

France is the major importer of OAMCAF's coffee, whose marketing objectives are "quality and competitively." Spain and Italy follow as large importers of OAMCAF's coffee.


Situated not far from the most fashionable French shopping district (What, you thought I wouldn't take advantage!) stands the offices for France's newest coffee organization - UNACAF (Union Nationale du Cafe), which represents in France the coffee trade. Chairman is Claude Tripon, who works within the green coffee importing firm, Tardivat International S.A. The secretary is run by Frederic D'hotel.

In the past, the French coffee trade community felt that the original European contract was not in symmetry with traders and roasters, hence they needed their own contract.

The A.F.N.I.C. (Association Francaise du Negoce International du Cafe) was created in 1982, first to set up an arbitration court on coffee, followed in 1986 by the creation of an autonomous international coffee contract, on a C.I.F., net landed weight basis. The Cote d'lvoire then stated that all coffee would be exported in an A.F.N.I.C. contract.

The new body, UNACAF, created in January 1992, is constituted of the members of the A.F.N.I.C., together with the members of the various French port associations (those being previously members of the F.N.N.N. C.C.C.V. - Federation Nationale du Commerce des Cafe Verts - organization which, if still existing, has no more official activity).

The new body, UNACAF, includes representatives from the exporters of French-speaking producing countries mainly (mainly Cote d'lvoire and Cameroon), traders, importers, roasters, bankers, supervisors, and insurers. Within the roaster category, so far Nestle has joined, but the statues were written so that three seats are designated for roasters within the Council of the Organization and other roasters are welcome to join. The wish of the French body is to represent the trade in all its aspects, from the exporters/shippers to the roasters.

The UNACAF participates in ICO meetings, being an official advisor of the French delegation. Among the C.E.C.A. (European organization for the coffee traders), UNACAF represents France.

The large French roasters are members of the S.N.I.C.C. (Syndicat National de l'Industrie et du Commerce du Cafe) which represents France within the E.U.C.A. (European organization for roasters). Both CECA and EUCA have set up a joint body, named A.F.N.I.C. contract (run by UNACAF), the bilingual English/French European Coffee Contract, and the Indonesian Contract (run by the Deutsch Coffee Association).

The arbitration, in respect of these contracts, may be called for in Amsterdam, Anvers, Trieste, Genes, London, Paris, and Le Havre, those last two being on the process to merge.
COPYRIGHT 1993 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Title Annotation:part 1; coffee industry and habit
Author:McCabe, Jane
Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Apr 1, 1993
Previous Article:Coffee research reveals no health risk.
Next Article:Coffee brewing ratios.

Related Articles
Singapore - coffee's gateway to SE Asia.
Will EC's new muscle squeeze out U.S. in race for Arabicas?
Robusta quality for top-of-the-line products.
Soul and substance, coffee and Italy.
Thailand: coffee production down, prices low, but farmers will persevere.
Coffea canephora: the 'R' word.
O sole Meo.
Espresso: profiles of a global affair.
My year-end musings. (From The Editor's Desk).
Gourmet Robustas: the quest goes on: a presentation by Pierre E. Leblache, World Alliance of Gourmet Robustas delivered in Hamburg at the Tea &...

Terms of use | Copyright © 2017 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters