The baguette has long been thought of as a staple of the French diet, as well as a recognisable symbol of French culture. But there could be a rival waiting in the wings ready to take its crown as France’s favourite bread – the bagel.

Overall, packaged bread is a relatively buoyant sector in France, especially when compared to other major European countries such as the UK and Germany, where consumption is in decline. This is not because the French are eating more bread, but rather because more consumers are moving away from the traditional baguette from the boulangerie and towards the convenience of packaged bread formats in mainstream retail channels.

Use of speciality bread in France grows

In response to changing habits, more speciality bread products are being launched in France. Numerous new wrap and tortilla products, ethnic bread and especially bagels have been launched, with private label retailers very active in the field and major brands also starting to look to develop this opportunity. One of the most innovative major players in the market, La Boulangère, has a pains du monde (world breads) range featuring Swedish flatbread, bruschetta, wraps, panini and bagels. Other examples include tortillas launched by Cora and Lidl, pita launched by Franprix and naan launched by Lidl.

Cora Lidl Pita Naan

Tortillas are the most popular speciality bread, with 15% of French bread consumers eating them, followed by flatbreads (10%) and bagels (9%). These numbers increase markedly among younger age groups, with 16-24 year olds almost twice as likely to eat tortilla wraps and bagels.

Foodservice specialists drive interest in bagels

Interest in bagels in particular is being driven by their increasing use in foodservice channels in France. Chains such as Bagelstein, with around 60 outlets across the country, are growing. Bagelstein serves some 18,000 bagels a day, and the company’s website says it will add some 40 shops by 2017. The bagel bakery Authentic Bagels meanwhile claims to supply around 150 supermarkets in the Paris region and around 40 restaurants, with the number of clientele having doubled in the past year. As a healthier street food alternative to burgers, bagels are also being used more in the burgeoning food truck scene in France. The Rolling Bagel food truck is a prominent example.

However, despite the growing awareness of bagels, usage in France still trails behind other European markets. For example. in Poland 23% of consumers eat bagels.

Bagel innovation in 2015

The presence of bagels on French supermarket shelves is still somewhat limited, but launches are growing. In 2015, for example, the UK’s leading bagel brand, New York Bakery Co., debuted in France. Another major packaged bread player (second to La Boulangère), Jacquet has also launched a bagel  offering. With private label launches escalating nationwide, it seems likely that the shelf space devoted to bagels will further increase in 2016. Although they will not supersede the dominance of the baguette anytime soon, bagels and other speciality bread formats will certainly continue to take a greater share of bread eating occasions in France.

Jacquet plain bagels new york bagels

 

Chris Brockman is Research Manager, Food and Drink, EMEA region at Mintel. During a near 20-year research career, Chris has worked with many of the leading global food and drink producers and retailers. Prior to Mintel, Chris led a team undertaking research on food ingredient sectors and tracking global innovation trends. He also led a research team at an export market consultancy for the food and drink sector.

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