Country Profile

France Country Profile

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Market Overview

$253.8 Million
total of U.S. processed foods exported to France in 2020
expected economic expansion in France in 2021
$326.7 million
total of U.S. exports of consumer ready foods to France in 2020

Euromonitor reports that in 2020, France registered one of the sharpest economic downturns among regional countries, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  The economy is expected to witness recovery over the medium term, supported by easing containment measures, an accommodative monetary policy, and France's Economic Relaunch Plan. However, heightened uncertainty surrounding global economic development and the country’s weakening fiscal position pose downside risks to the outlook.


Private consumption and investment activity are seen expanding robustly, supported by fiscal stimulus measures, while firming global demand will boost exports.  There is a high level of uncertainty due to the prolonged health crisis, and frail fiscal accounts cloud the outlook.  Analysts see the economy expanding 5% in 2021, and 3.5% in 2022.


  • The French economy declined sharply in 2020.  Real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracted by 8.1% in 2020 after growth of 1.5% in 2019.
  • The real value of private final consumption rose by 1.5% in 2019 and a fall of 10.4% was anticipated in 2020, the recovery in consumer confidence is likely to be limited by a relatively modest improvement in the job market, which will restrain private consumption from returning to its pre-crisis level.
  • Foreign trade is anticipated to rebound gradually in the medium term, supported by the Brexit trade agreement, an easing of lockdown measures, and the economic recovery in the country’s main trading partners.
  • France is set to remain one of the largest recipients of foreign investment in Europe in upcoming years.

In the longer run, the country’s potential rate of growth could be dragged down by the effects of population ageing.  France’s demographics, though favorable compared to several other European countries, are in need of more reforms.  Without action in this field, the potential rate of growth will fall.  Population has been slowly but steadily growing at the same time as French society ages.  Total population was 64.8 million in 2019, about 6 million more than in 2000.


Meanwhile, the median age is rising.  It stood at 42.1 years in 2019 and it will rise to 44.2 years by 2030.  Fertility has risen slightly over the past two decades and exceeds the regional average.  The average age of women at childbirth is slowly rising.  The number of those over 65 years represented 20.3% of total population in 2019 and this share will rise to 24.1% by 2030.


USDA’s Office of Agricultural Affairs (OAA) in Paris hereinafter referred to as “Post” reports that historically, the U.S.-French commercial and economic alliance is one of the United States’ oldest and closest.  Relations between the United States and France have remained active and friendly.  The two countries share common values and have parallel policies on most political, economic, and security issues.  The United States is the top destination for French investment and the United States is the largest foreign investor in France.


Socio-economic and demographic changes have significantly changed food trends in France.  French consumers want food products that offer better taste and health benefits.  The younger generation enjoys trying new and innovative products and they value products with an attractive image along with good taste.  In France past food safety scares have increased consumer concerns about sanitation and safety issues.  These concerns have led to greater demand for natural and organic food products, natural fruit juices, and organic produce.  In addition, there is increasing demand for fish and seafood products, vegan food, gluten free products, and food supplements.  There is a strong demand in France for ethic meals, halal manufactured products and to a lesser extent, kosher certified products.


The French market for food products is mature, sophisticated and well served by suppliers from around the world.  France’s transportation infrastructure benefits from advanced technology and high-level government’s investment.  The food industry is a major and stable sector of the economy.  U.S. firms must navigate complicated national and European regulations and standards to sell products in France.


France as a European Union (EU) member state benefits from EU customs union agreements with Turkey and Andorra.  The European Union has preferential trade agreements with Norway, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Tunisia, Morocco, Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, Mexico and South Africa.  The EU provides African, Caribbean and Pacific developing countries (ACP) with non-reciprocal preferential access to its markets under the Cotonou Agreement, and gives other developing countries preferential access under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).  The new trade agreement with Canada (CETA) entered into force in September 2017.  The EU also finalized a free trade agreement with Japan.  These trade agreements benefit these countries products over U.S. exports to the EU and France.


Advantages and Challenges for U.S. Food Exporters in France

Post reports there are country-specific advantages and challenges for U.S. food exporters in the French market.


  • More than 75% of the population lives in urban areas, where there is a strong demand for international cuisine.
  • French per capita income is near that of the United States.
  • The tourism industry increases demand for hotel and restaurant products.
  • U.S. fast food chains, theme restaurants, and the food processing industry occasionally demand American food ingredients.
  • Domestic distribution systems are efficient.
  • American food and food products remain quite popular.
  • US-EU organics equivalency agreement in place since 2012 has increased the market for U.S. organics.


  • Some French consumers have irrational food fears and choose food products based on perceived rather than real food safety.
  • French consumers are exacting when it comes to quality and innovation.
  • Price competition is fierce.
  • Certain food ingredients are banned or restricted in the French market.
  • Marketing costs to increase consumer awareness are high.
  • Mandatory customs duties, sanitary inspections and labelling requirements can be onerous.
  • The EU biotech-labelling requirement of 0.9% excludes many U.S. processed products.

In 2020 U.S. exports of consumer ready foods to France totaled US$326.7 million, a decrease of 9% over the same period in 2019.  France also imported US$253.8 million in U.S. processed foods in 2020.  That was down 5% from the previous year.  Top processed foods exported to France in 2020 included:


  • Alcoholic Beverages
  • Prepared/Preserved Seafood
  • Food Preparations & Ingredients
  • Dog & Cat Food
  • Condiments & Sauces, Jams & Jellies
  • Processed Vegetables & Pulses
  • Snack Foods

“All of Food Export's programs were a tremendous help getting us export ready, understanding the challenges that come with international business, and learning how to navigate them.”

Katz Gluten Free

Food Export-Northeast Participant since 2018      

Interested in importing from U.S. suppliers?
Contact us to learn more.

Retail Sector

estimated food expenditures of an overall household budget
largest package food market in the world
$90.9 Billion
estimated retail sales in the packaged food market in France in 2020

According to Euromonitor, retail sales in the packaged food market in France had been estimated at US$90.9 billion in 2020.  That represents growth of 6.7% and US$5.7 billion since 2016.  France is the 5th largest package food market in the world.  By the year 2025, the retail sales in the packaged food market in France is expected to reach US$96.5 billion, growth of 7% or US$6.2 billion.  High growth categories in the forecast include:


  • Rice, Pasta & Noodles
  • Pet Food
  • Baked Goods
  • Sauces, Dressings & Condiments
  • Ready Meals
  • Cheese
  • Ice Cream & Frozen Desserts
  • Savory Snacks  

Post reports that in 2020, sales of hyper-supermarket and discounters represented 75% of the country's retail food market.  Different types of retailers have experienced growth and success over the previous year, especially in e-commerce food sales, that increased over 40% compared to 2019, and represented 7.8% of total retailer’s food sales.  The largest French retailers continued investing in smaller stores in city centers.  Overall retail food sales in France were estimated at US$394 billion, including specialized food stores such as frozen food stores, organics and open-air-markets with sales estimated at US$35 billion. 

France’s retail distribution network is diverse and sophisticated. The food retail sector is generally comprised of six types of establishments: 1) hypermarkets, 2) supermarkets, 3) hard discounters, 4) convenience stores, 5) gourmet centers in department stores, and 6) traditional outlets including neighborhood stores - bakeries and butcheries, 7) gas marts, as well as open-air markets and internet sales. 


In 2019, food expenditures represented about 20% of the overall budget, compared to 35% in 1960.  The household food basket is now primarily composed of processed and ready-to-eat foods, while the demand for meat, fruit and beverages, bread and alcoholic beverages has decreased.  Increase of household purchasing power, fluctuation in food prices and changing lifestyles have contributed to the changes in food habits.  


Euromonitor reports that French supermarkets registered positive sales growth during 2020 as it became one of the few retail channels in France to benefit from the COVID-19 crisis.  In an echo of the favorable situation unfolded in convenience stores, supermarkets benefited from the proximity of many of the stores in the channel to the homes of consumers as well as the more human scale of the outlets, which meant that consumers were more willing to shop in supermarkets than for instance hypermarkets and warehouse clubs.  Thus, the fact that supermarkets presented an ideal compromise between hypermarkets and convenience stores benefited the channel during 2020.


Convenience stores emerged as one of the big winners in France’s retailing industry during 2020 as the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the retail channel was largely positive.  In particular, the small outlet formats and proximity of many convenience stores to the homes of consumers stood the channel in good stead during the year as many people eschewed large-format outlets in remote locations such as hypermarkets in favor of grocery stores that enabled them to minimise the amount of time spent outside of the home whilst shopping for daily essentials.  This created ideal preconditions for a strong performance in convenience stores during 2020 after the channel was under pressure for much of the review period (2016-2021) due to the general trends in grocery retailing being unfavorable for small-format outlets located in city centers.


Best Product Prospects:


Products identified as opportunities for U.S. Suppliers include: fish and seafood: salmon, cod, lobster, scallops, citrus fruits and nuts: grapefruit, almonds, pistachios, and other nuts, salted and sweet snacks, confectionary products, spices, sauces, seasoning, wine and other alcoholic beverages, carbonated drinks, juices, pulses, canned fruit/vegetables and marmalade.

Food Service Sector

increase in HRI sector sales in 2019 from the previous year
$64.2 Billion
portion of sales in the HRI sector from hotels & restaurants
$90 Billion
in sales revenue in France’s Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional (HRI) sector in 2019

In 2019, France’s Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional (HRI) sector recorded US$90 billion in sales revenue, a 1.7% increase from the previous year.  Hotels and restaurants accounted for the largest share of the sector with US$64.2 billion in sales.  The fast food segment is the fastest growing sub-sector of HRI, but high-end restaurants and international hotels continue to offer opportunities for U.S. products.  In 2020, the corona virus pandemic and the resulting quarantine have had an enormous impact on the sector, and have resulted in the permanent closing of some restaurants and business which dampens short-term opportunities in the sector.


Within the food industry the food service sector was the one most hurt by the pandemic. Between March 15 and June 2 2020 the abrupt closure of cafes, restaurants, and caterers dealt a severe blow not only to the sector and to the important French chef and hotelier profession.  Restaurants and the hotel sector are suffering, leading to declining opportunities to chefs.  The summer season, although short, was better than expected because French spent vacation time and dollars domestically.  However a new closure from October 29 is devastating the sector again.  French food service trade group estimates 15% of cafes, hotels; restaurants and nightclubs will go bankrupt by end of 2020 which would mean a loss of 200,000 jobs.


The HRI sector is highly developed, with a wide range of establishments offering diverse choices.  Most large restaurants, including chains offer local cuisine and use imported products only if local alternatives are not available.  Restaurants in France that serve international cuisine are more likely to use imported food products.  However, niche opportunities for U.S. suppliers exist for a range of diverse products, such as fish/seafood, exotic meats, sauces, salad dressings, rice, wine, fruit juices and frozen ethnic/regionally focused food service meals.  Trends and development for commercial catering includes a focus on healthy food, ease in preparation, and use of digital technology for ordering and delivering.  Sandwich and bakery products in institutions remain popular and demand for breakfast catering is increasing.


Post reports that geographically large and regionally diverse, France has distinct local and regional food and flavor preferences.  While restaurants serving local cuisines continue to dominate the market, ethnic cuisines are increasingly popular, especially in large cities. An increasing number specialize in cuisine from Asia or Africa, and the United States.  In general, non-chained establishments source ingredients from local retailers and markets.


Best Product Prospects:


Post reports that the products with the best opportunities in this sector include: fish and seafood, beef and bison meat, fruits and vegetables, frozen desserts (such as cakes and ice creams), ready-to-eat meals and ethnic/regional sides or meals, fruit juices and soft drinks (including flavored spring waters), dried fruits and nuts, fresh fruits including grapefruits and exotic fruits, and vegetables.


Food-Processing Sector

increase in the value of processed food imports from 2019 to 2020
$215 Billion
the combined estimated value of food processing companies
estimated number of food processing companies

Post reports that the food processing industry is an important sector for France.  In general, it has successfully managed the Covid-19 crisis by adapting to cost increases and more stringent sanitary measures.  Progress in food technology, marketing innovations, and exports of finished food products contribute to France's increasing demand for food ingredients. Exports of processed foods are higher than other large industrial sectors in France and its food industry is the third largest in the world behind Germany and the United States. 


The sector has about 17,700 food processing companies with sales of US$215 billion. The value of processed food imports increased 0.1% in 2020 compared to 2019, and the exports decreased by 4.5% during the same period.  However, exports in the food industry sector remain ahead of other leading industrial sectors, placing France's food industry among the top three in the world.  Its food processing sector represented around 1.6% of France’s gross domestic product (GDP).


Food processing was considered an essential industry by the government and most firms continued to operate but with slightly lower capacity because of limitations on labor and new distancing precautions in factories.  Trucking also increased costs for the industry as there were fewer drivers and foreign drivers departed the country.  Cost increases of agricultural raw materials, cleaning and protection equipment for employees due to health crisis also impacted the sector, especially the small to medium-sized agro-businesses. Many importers have noted that they have slowed or stopped their purchases from outside the EU (including the United States) while they assess future demand.


France's demand for food ingredients has increased due to progress in food technology as well as finished food product exports.  Products in high demand are new products designed to be convenient and healthy for consumers, low fat, and organic.  The food processing industry is focused on improving nutrition in its final products.  Since December 2016, EU Regulation requires that the nutritional information is detailed on product labels. 


In order to sustain its processing sector, France became a net importer of agricultural products; The EU remains France's most important trading partner with top five suppliers: Spain, Belgium, Germany, The Netherlands, and Italy.  Outside of the EU, the United States is France's third largest supplier after Switzerland, and Brazil.  U.S. exports to France represented 2% of the value of imports in 2019.  


Best Product Prospects:


Post reports that U.S. products present in the market that have good sales potential include: fish and seafood, citrus fruits and nuts, coffee, tea and spices, sauces, condiments and seasonings, salted and sweet snacks, sugar, chocolate, and confectionery and pulses.

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