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Tea & coffee in France.

Tea & coffee in France

There is gaining momentum for very fine teas and coffees from France. Only a few years ago this possibility could not have been seriously entertained by some in the respective industries. The wisdom then might have been that the French who could do so many things well, particularly when it involves the tummy, were disasters with tea and far from serious about coffee. Oh ye of little faith. When it comes to the sense of taste, never rule out France.

We now find that some of the finest teas to be found bear a French label - and coffee is not far behind. For reflection of this take a stroll near the Madeleine in Paris - Fauchon is undergoing a massive and very expensive facelift; Madame de Sevigne is apparently thriving; Hediard is an extravaganza of red this season (very upbeat); and the gold Buddha in the window at Betjeman & Barton is riveting. Such establishments, there are others of course, set the tone for tea and coffee emporiums. The products sold there are now also trend setting as to taste and style, if perhaps more for foreigners than for the French.

Tea Profile

Actually, the growth in exports, most particularly for fine black teas, is giving strength to what would otherwise be a static market.

Last year, 1989, for example, total imports increased by 2.5 percent, reaching 10,200 tons of tea. The sum includes 7,100 tons of black teas, 3,100 tons of green teas. Green tea imports were down for the year, while black imports gained by almost 8.4 percent. The upswing in context of a sluggish domestic market is attributable to the continuing growth in exports of fine French-packed teas.

Most of the green teas are also exported, as only about two percent of France's tea consumption is in green tea. These teas usually go to northern Africa.

The market is dominated by the Unilever/Fralib group of companies, comprising Lipton, Thes de l'Elephant, Cie Coloniale. The group holds about 40 percent in combination of the total market. Second place in the ranks is seemingly held by two separate companies - Foods International (Twinings) and R.P. Dammann Freres. Both are given something like a 16 percent share. Lyons Tetley teas are next in market rank, followed by a group of five companies of roughly equal strength: Ets. George Cannon, Mariage, Thes Indar and ATA France Import.

Erick James of Twinings is now president of Syndicate Francais des Importateurs de The. He is also the current president of Comite European du The, the next assembly of which is to be held in Paris in September. Olivier Scala, of Ets. George Cannon, is president of Comite Francais du The.

Within the market, the growth segment is still in teabags, now accounting for approximately 65 percent of sales, three-quarters of which are sold in supermarkets. The flavored tea market is stable or perhaps down somewhat.

Coffee Profile

France's coffee market continues to be stable, but not dynamic. It grows overall by less than one percent per year, and has been doing so for the past decade. Regional traditions remain strong, but the trend is toward an increase in Arabica consumption and to an improvement in general coffee quality.

France imported 304,068 tons of green coffee in 1989, a slight gain over the figure for 1988. The nation ranks third as a coffee importer in global trade. Brazil became again the leading supplier to the market, with 61,749 tons and 20.3 percent share - its highest since 1985. Ivory Coast shipments slipped dramatically in 1989, to 48,720 tons, giving it a 16 percent share of French imports. In 1988, Ivory Coast was the leading origin with a 20.6 percent share.

Among the other leading producers for France in 1989, Madagascar held 7.4 percent of imports; Uganda placed with 6.9 percent; Colombia was at 6.5 percent; Indonesia at 5 percent; Zaire at 4.9 percent; Cameroun at 4.3 percent; Ethiopia at 2.5 percent; and Costa Rica at 2.5 percent.

Arabica coffees now represent 50 percent of the imports into France. The shift to Arabica has been supported by the popularity of 100% Arabica roasted products and the movement to increased lunchtime coffee drinking in France, away from breakfast. In the past five years there has been a drift of from 10-15 percent from breakfast consumption to lunch drinking. The lunch cup is characteristically lighter.

Taking into account coffee imports, all kinds, and exports, and by translating roasted and soluble coffee products back into green weight, we are given a net consumption figure of 320,071 tons of green coffee in France in 1989.

MARKET CHARACTERISTICS: Four major companies control more than 90 percent of the retail roasted coffee market which are by rank Jacobs Suchard (Grand Mere and Jacques Vabre), Douwe Egberts (Maison du Cafe), Leporq, Vadour. The total market divides as follows: 73% in-home consumption, 27% out-of-home; 75% roasted coffee, 25% soluble; of the roasted coffee 85% is ground; of total market, 37.5% is in 100% Arabica products, 53.8% in blends, 8.7% in decaffeinated.

The Jacob's brands hold 43.4% of the roasted retail coffee market, 49% of the decaffeinated market, 53% of the 100% Arabica market, 35% of the blend market. Soluble sales are controlled by Nestle, with 67.2% of the market. Chicoree/coffee blend markets are also dominated by Nestle.

Although the specialty coffee sector remains relatively small in France, and not yet as dynamic as in other nations, it does show considerable promise. For now only some 5000 tons of coffee are sold through boutiques, for example. However, one market study shows that there is real potential in France for a coffee boutique market five times greater than this.

Table : France: Tea Imports (in m.tons)
 1986 1987 1988 1989
Black Teas 6650 6670 6550 7100
Green Teas 3390 2480 3600 3100
Total 10,040 9,150 9,950 10,200

Table : France: Black Tea Imports By Qualities (tons)
 1987 1988 1989
Sri Lanka 3430 3210 2900
China 1310 1200 1440
India 740 710 740
Kenya 490 550 660

PHOTO : Linen teabags from Betjeman & Barton (Dammann Freres).

PHOTO : Left: Francois Le Chevalier; right Philippe Hemet.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Lockwood Trade Journal Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Publication:Tea & Coffee Trade Journal
Date:Jun 1, 1990
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