French oyster and foie-gras producers hope for festive sales

Producers are focusing on open-air markets for positive 2020 pandemic sale figures but Foie-gras industry is facing hard times

10 December 2020
By Connexion journalist

The Christmas and New Year fêtes de fin d’année are a key time for producers of two luxury foods loved by French people – foie-gras and oysters – and they are doing their best to ensure they will be on festive tables at the end of this pandemic year.

One of the largest producers of oysters in Charente Maritime, Chiron Fils, says it will come out of 2020 better than some producers who traditionally sell mainly through restaurants.

Laurent Chiron, who heads the business, said: “For us, the market is a third in outdoor markets in the Paris suburbs and Annecy, as well as local markets, and that has gone well, with sales up 10 to 15%, after the first lockdown, on other years.

“Obviously, for the end of the year we will be concentrating on the open-air markets, which it now seems will be able to stay open.”

Another third of sales is to supermarkets and hypermarkets, where sales have been down through the year, and he said it was difficult to say what would happen there.

“For most French people, oysters are items de première nécessité so can be sold and we hope that they will buy oysters as normal to celebrate even in these difficult times.”

The final third of the company’s sales come from exports to the UK, Ireland and other EU countries but also to the Far East. Falls in Asia have been compensated by rises in Europe.

Major radio and TV advertising campaign was launched in October to boost both the image and sales of foie-gras

Foie-gras producers launched a major advertising campaign on the radio and TV in October to boost both the image and sales of foie-gras, and associated products such as magret de canard and duck confit.

With 40% of annual sales made through restaurants and another 20% through exports, the industry is facing hard times, Marie-Pierre Pé, managing director of the inter-professional body CIFOG, told The Connexion.

“We are putting stands with demonstrators in supermarkets for the first time to show recipes and how to prepare and cook foie-gras,” she said.

“Research has shown that while 92%* of French people eat foie-gras, some people are still hesitant about cooking it themselves.”

Other measures include boosting online sales initiatives, having partnerships with high-profile chefs, and getting 10,000 restaurants to sign a charter to use quality French-produced foie-gras.

“Producers are adapting and offering smaller cans and jars of foie-gras, too – enough for a table of six, as the government recommends, and not the usual table of 12,” she said.

As well as worries linked to lockdown, farmers were ordered to keep their birds inside in 46 departments in early November after bird-flu outbreaks in the UK, Netherlands and Germany.

One of the largest producers of foie-gras, Maïsadour, which has brands such as Delpeyrat, Comtesse du Barry, Delmas and Sarrade, announced 136 job cuts in June, blaming overproduction aggravated by the Covid-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, Christmas tree growers have called on the government to include them in the list of items de première nécessité, so they can be sold by supermarkets, amid doubts whether they can be sold this year due to lockdown regulations.

*At least once a year. Source: CIFOG/CSA poll December 2019 on 1,005 representative French adults.

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