If the phenomenon of “Made in France” has made its mark in the news in recent years, it is nevertheless not a new idea. Emerging in the wake of the Second World War to revive the French economy, and revived again in the late 70s when France suffered from the first signs of deindustrialization, the exhortation to consume French products shows that it is a structural response to the ebb and flow of the economy. Although it was a strong paradigm of the last presidential campaign, “Buy French” is not, however, yet another political fad – but rather a reality that manifests in consumption patterns… because now, even the most innocuous acts of buying are evolving into a citizen initiative.

Indeed, favoring French products is an opportunity for everyone to participate, in their own way, in safeguarding jobs on French territory. It is also, for some involved consumers, guaranteeing a limited environmental impact, thanks to shorter distribution channels. To give meaning to one’s consumption is therefore to reconcile one’s acts and one’s convictions, besides spending more money. Thus, according CREDOC, nearly 2/3 of the French say they would pay more for a product if it was manufactured in France.

‘Made in France’ has thus become a key argument upon which brands are capitalizing, with a tone of voice that is at times very militant. And this assertion is not reserved just for French brands, since some multinational brands are claiming their industrial presence in France, proving that one can be global while still catering the local economy.

At the heart of many scandals, the agri-food market obviously does not escape this wave of patriotic consumption, which enriches itself in the context of a safe and qualitative dimension – for “eating French” guarantees controlled food industry sectors and authentic tastes. As a design agency we also increasingly support brands in the exposure of this added value in their packaging.

The French origin: a polymorphic concept

To make Frenchness a competitive advantage it is still necessary that it corresponds to reality. Now sourcing often has a serious financial implication for brands that have no other choice but to put forward French origin as a minimum standard. Thus the flourishing of pictograms on packaging, which convey messages like “Produced in France”. As a clearly opportunistic approach designed especially to create an impulse purchase, the mere presence of the French flag on the packaging – beyond the message it conveys – can generate a positive preconception and translate into an actual purchase.

Some brands go a little further and highlight the French origin of one of the components of their formula. When a primary ingredient precipitates strong concerns, reassuring its origin is key in the perception of the overall quality of the product in question. This is the case, for example, in processed products containing meat, which have had to redouble their efforts of persuasion ever since Horsegate.

In the same spirit, other brands reaffirm their French identity with pride or develop storytelling around a typically French table culture. The traditional imagery of France is thus invoked, and even occasionally flirts with caricature.

The regional land: a credible alternative

Faced with this almost universal appropriation of “Made in France’, the consumer is becoming increasingly suspicious and anxious to reduce the gap between marketing promises and the reality of what he puts on his plate. French origin is therefore now considered on smaller scale and consumers are turning increasingly to regional production. Highlighting ingredients grown in this or that particular French region is a strong argument of conviction and more credible than the evocation of “Made in France” – which is as vague as it is generic. And of course, regional brands – small producers who were once skilled niches destined for an elite group of demanding consumers – today see their horizons expanding towards more day-to-day mass consumption.

French “savoir-faire” is cool!

Widely acclaimed and sought-after, the French origin also touches on the sustainability and value of specific skills that are proudly claimed. Some brands have a great understanding of this dynamic and adopt a decisively more selective approach, combining superior product quality with a stylized, specialized codification. Aestheticized to the extreme, these codes of Frenchness pride themselves on trendiness and have become an outward sign of good taste.

Whether embodying the traceability of ingredients, the fight against delocalization, ensuring a minimized carbon footprint or the assertion of a unique artisanal expertise, “Made in France” speaks to all categories of consumers, by responding to various concerns. However, as a ubiquitous, trite promise, the concept of French origin has not yet finished in its mission to persuade and seduce. It continues to reconfigure itself by adopting more local and statutory forms, to meet the standards of increasingly demanding consumers who seek clear information – with true quality, but above all, with a sense of meaning.

 

Sarah Zannetti, Strategic Planner