France is not known as the most vegan friendly country but it is a trend on the rise and studies suggest the percentage of people who are vegans or vegetarians in France is as high as 5%.
A recent study of the vegan and vegetarian food market in France found that sales of meat substitutes in supermarkets grew 11% in 2019, the latest figures available. The report, carried out by market analysis company Xerfi, said that “from Danone to Nestlé, all the major manufacturers have invested in this promising market”.
Barbara Boyer, spokeswoman for animal rights group L214 Éthique et Animaux, said that “little by little, there are more vegan products being offered in France”.
“We can see that today the variety of vegetarian and vegan products in supermarkets and at restaurants is developing quickly,” she said.
“Many supermarkets, like Casino, Monoprix, Picard and Aldi, are launching their own range of vegan products so there are more alternatives. It’s true that we are trailing behind English speaking countries like the UK, but over the past few years we have seen a real evolution in France in terms of vegan offers at restaurants and shops. It’s coming slowly.”
She said L214 is trying to promote the lifestyle. “We are trying to make vegan food as accessible as possible for people, because if it is too complicated, they won’t manage it,” she said.
So far, more than 100,000 people have signed up to the association’s free 21-day “veggie challenge” to help people move away from meat-based diets.
Ms Boyer also mentioned website VegOresto, which lists more than 2,600 restaurants in France that provide at least one vegan option.
A study by Diplomeo last year found that 90% of vegetarians in France said they chose the diet to limit suffering to animals. Seven out of 10 of those polled said they did it for environmental reasons and 42% for health reasons.
'It is tough being a vegan in France'
Janice Newman spent more than 15 years living in France and was vegan for three of those years.
She and her husband moved back recently to the UK, where she says the vegan scene is far more evolved.
She said: “It’s very hard to be vegan in France. They seem to really not want it.
“There is no designated vegan space in supermarkets.
“There are very few products there and they are usually vegetarian, so you still have to read the labels.
“There are no adverts or signs saying something like ‘free from such and such’.
“Restaurants, when they are open, they almost push you out. How dare you be vegan! Sometimes, they will adapt a meal for you, like make a ratatouille and chips, or pasta without eggs. We would only go to restaurants to be with other people and we would usually eat a disappointing meal that we had to pay a lot of money for.”
Janice, 56, said that France is slowly starting to become more vegan-friendly but it is behind the UK, where there are far more options.
“There are now some vegan societies and social media groups in France, but you really have to be ‘vegan-savvy’ and cook your own meals.
“To get vegan products, I would shop at Biocoop or order online from Un Monde Vegan – they have a good selection.
“Some cafes, like Columbus Café & Co. offer vegan milks for coffees and teas.”