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Economy

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)

*NEWSBITES

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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