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Bon Appétit à l'Américaine, As US Food Giant General Mills Booms In France

In latest sign that US-style mass consumerism is breaking through European traditions, American food giant General Mills is outperforming rivals in France.

(Arianna Fishman)
(Arianna Fishman)


PARIS - In a country renowned for food, French citizens may be drifting from their croissants and boeuf bourguignon to boxed Old El Paso tacos and Green Giant canned goods. What's happening to this gastronomic mecca?

In France, the only food company to register double-digit growth was the American food giant General Mills, which by the end of November totaled a sales increase of 16% over the course of 2011.

Owner of Green Giant, Old El Paso and Häagen-Dazs, General Mills France's sales boost are ahead of its next closest competitor, French company Fleury Michon (+12%). "After 10% growth last year, we have grown again in 2011 in France" boasted Oliver Faujour, President of General Mills France, the largest branch of the group after the United States. "We hope to double our sales over the next ten years."

General Mills' performance can be explained by a low market penetration rate. Only 13% of French households buy Häagen-Dazs ice cream, not more than 14% buy Green Giant corn products. To boost sales, General Mills changed its perspective. "We view France as an emerging country, like China to Europe, with comparable growth rates for our brands' explains Faujour. In the General Mills France office, a Chinese flag was added to the map of France.

To grow at a quicker rate, Häagen-Dazs doubled its number of innovations in two years, creating new flavors like salted caramel and coconut trifle (coming in 2012), and a range of new desserts. To promote its products, Häagen-Dazs was the number one investor in television advertisements in its sector this year. These efforts resulted in a 22% growth, and the earning of 1.6 points in market share in supermarkets this year. Häagen-Dazs is even testing home delivery out of its shop on the Champs Elysées, and will have stores opening in Toulouse, Bordeaux, and Deauville in 2012.

Acceleration is also on the agenda of Old El Paso (+21%). With this brand, General Mills hopes to popularize Tex-Mex cuisine among French consumers, following the growing popularity of sushi and Japanese cuisine within the country. In addition to launching salsa and guacamole in squeeze bottles, it will also introduce culinary aides to familiarize consumers with its products.

King of corn, asparagus, and canned vegetables galore, Green Giant experienced a less impressive growth rate in 2011 (+2.6%) due to a poor artichoke harvest.

The French yogurt maker Yoplait, which was bought earlier this year by General Mills, saw sales grow 9% in France.

Read more from Le Figaro in French

Photo - Arianna Fishman

*Newsbites are digest items, not direct translations

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What's Spoiling The Kids: The Big Tech v. Bad Parenting Debate

Without an extended family network, modern parents have sought to raise happy kids in a "hostile" world. It's a tall order, when youngsters absorb the fears (and devices) around them like a sponge.

Image of a kid wearing a blue striped sweater, using an ipad.

Children exposed to technology at a very young age are prominent today.

Julián de Zubiría Samper


BOGOTÁ — A 2021 report from the United States (the Youth Risk Behavior Survey) found that 42% of the country's high-school students persistently felt sad and 22% had thought about suicide. In other words, almost half of the country's young people are living in despair and a fifth of them have thought about killing themselves.

Such chilling figures are unprecedented in history. Many have suggested that this might be the result of the COVID-19 pandemic, but sadly, we can see depression has deeper causes, and the pandemic merely illustrated its complexity.

I have written before on possible links between severe depression and the time young people spend on social media. But this is just one aspect of the problem. Today, young people suffer frequent and intense emotional crises, and not just for all the hours spent staring at a screen. Another, possibly more important cause may lie in changes to the family composition and authority patterns at home.

Firstly: Families today have fewer members, who communicate less among themselves.

Young people marry at a later age, have fewer children and many opt for personal projects and pets instead of having children. Families are more diverse and flexible. In many countries, the number of children per woman is close to or less than one (Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong among others).

In Colombia, women have on average 1.9 children, compared to 7.6 in 1970. Worldwide, women aged 15 to 49 years have on average 2.4 children, or half the average figure for 1970. The changes are much more pronounced in cities and among middle and upper-income groups.

Of further concern today is the decline in communication time at home, notably between parents and children. This is difficult to quantify, but reasons may include fewer household members, pervasive use of screens, mothers going to work, microwave ovens that have eliminated family cooking and meals and, thanks to new technologies, an increase in time spent on work, even at home. Our society is addicted to work and devotes little time to minors.

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