Q&A: Dissecting France’s evolving shrimp market

By

Lindsey Partos, SeafoodSource contributing editor, reporting from Paris

Published on
July 11, 2011

A buoyant and fast-moving market, France imports more than 100,000 metric tons of warmwater shrimp each year. Marie Christine Monfort from Marketing Seafood is the author of a new report that explores opportunities for seafood players in this mature market. SeafoodSource caught up with Monfort in Paris to find out more about France’s EUR 500 million warmwater shrimp market.

Partos: Where is the added-value in the French shrimp market?

Monfort: The market for warmwater shrimp has evolved over time. While seven years ago it was the volume boom, today the market is mature; it’s time for segmentation and differentiation. The market is moving from head-on, shell-on (HOSO) to physically transforming the product, to peeled shrimp, which are gaining in market share. What is of particular interest in France is the sheer volume size of the market.

What is the value of France’s warmwater shrimp market?

The French retail market for fresh and frozen shrimp is estimated at EUR 400 million (before VAT). This does not include the catering market, for which only partial data are available. Another part is imported by the processing industry to be sold as chilled or frozen ready meals.

Where are opportunities for players in the French warmwater shrimp market?

This depends on where along the value chain you are positioned. Opportunities differ whether you are a producer or an end distributor. I firmly believe that producers need to better understand what the market requires. They need to know their end-buyer, for example, the retail chain. They not only need to understand their client, but the client of their client. I’m not saying they should bypass their client, but they need to understand the market, which will also raise their own negotiation powers. The study reports on the different strategies used by the main players, including the different certifications — fair trade, Label Rouge, organic — available to producers. As an example, the demand for organic certified shrimp has shown very positive signs, with most retailers offering at least one organic shrimp product per shop corner (fresh bulk, fresh pre-packed, frozen).

What are the biggest warmwater shrimp markets in Europe?

Spain is the largest European tropical shrimp market, with imports valued at about EUR 750 million. Then comes France with  EUR 500 million, and Italy with EUR 300 million. While Spain has lost some market share because of the crisis, these top three markets have hardly changed in recent years. 

How are the French eating their prawns? 

HOSO is still the main market for shrimp. However, this is a diverse market, open for all origin, all sizes, from small to large. Shrimp is versatile, used as an appetizer, entrée or main dish. Such a host of consumption possibilities brings opportunities to producers. Instead of selling a commodity, producers with the help of their trading partners should adapt their product to meet the needs of the market and to capture a greater share of the “value-added.” One aspect is certain for all seafood, with shrimp being no exception, it has to be easy to cook and to eat. This gives a good chance for peeled products, especially at attracting non-traditional shrimp eaters. The report indicates as well that the consumption level varies greatly by region, for example, greater numbers of very large shrimps are eaten in southern France compared to the north.

Why is Ecuador the dominant source for the French market? Can we expect more supplies online from Asia?

It is true that Ecuador is performing well (31 percent market share) and is the No. 1 supplier to France again in 2010 for the third year in a row. Madagascar has 22 percent and India 17 percent. The store checks suggest that beside its good price positioning, Ecuadorian producers have proved to be capable and efficient at selling organic certified items. They have also proved their ability to sell high quality non-organic products.

How does the fresh and frozen shrimp market compare?

This is a very interesting issue. Are they complementary or competitor? The market for chilled shrimp is bigger than the one for frozen products, and more diverse. But one should remember that the fresh market is supplied with frozen items. A key question is: “When and how the frozen items enter the fresh/chilled segment?” Where is the product to be de-frozen, by the producer or the European processor? So far shrimp has been used as a frozen raw material by European-based industrialists. But what about tomorrow? Perhaps change may occur by adding-value on the production side by producers cooking, marinating, putting on skewers, et al. This would be a shift. For the processors, it could be a threat, but not for the retailers.

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