Les magasins bio: organic product stores in France
Have you ever strolled down the streets of France and seen the store front signs that say ‘Bio’? Wondered what it is? Are you plant-based, vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, a health nut, have food allergies or just like to consume healthy organic stuff?
From food to cosmetics, I’ve got you covered. Let’s shop bio! Allez!
Organic products are huge in France. There is a large bio/organic following here. Almost 50% of consumers in the Paris area alone shop bio.¹ I’ve personally met people in France that will only consume products purchased from the bio stores. Think something along the lines of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or your local co-op stores. That’s what the bio stores are.
“OK Tina,” you say. “So what does it all mean?”
Bio means an organic product has been grown without synthetic pesticides, chemical fertilizers, GMO or radiation, in accordance with EU regulations.² Newer and stricter regulations came into operation in 2009.³ Only 3% of the land in France is zoned for bio products, although the government has set a target for 6% in 2012.?
The AB (Agriculture Biologique) label is an important logo to look for. For instance, for a product to host this label it needs to meet 62 criteria points – and that’s just for grains. Producers of the AB-label products need to renew their certifications every year.
However, be aware that you won’t find these labels on items found at outdoor markets, unless they have met all the criteria to label their products. Bio stores are meant to cater to this type of market.
There are a few varieties of bio stores in France that I’ve seen, such as La Vie Claire and Naturalia. The difference is that most bio stores are privately owned. La Vie Claire is a name-brand chain and Naturalia is a chain owned by the large Casino Group stores seen all over France.
Inside these stores there are shelves and shelves loaded with gluten-free products, along with vegan foods like nutritional yeast, tofu, seitan, veggie burgers and soy yogurt. You can buy cookies, crackers, bread, flour, nuts, pasta, spices, fair trade chocolate, wine, fruit, veggies and cosmetics.
You name it, you can find it there! And they all have an incredible selection of bulk food items like nuts, oats, seeds, quinoa, brown rice, lentils, and cereals.
I live in these stores! As a plant-based chef from Los Angeles, it was vital for me to seek out these places. Not only for myself, but for my clients as well.
Go visit a store and walk the isles, read labels, try new things! Also, it’s a good idea to get to know the people in your local store. I adore my (always happy!) friend Hervé Rose, who is the manager at Vital Santé Bio in Cagnes-sur-Mer.
He helps me with the translation of products and will order in items that I want if he doesn’t stock them. He greets me with a huge smile every time I see him. The La Vie Claire stores are great too. I like to mix it up!
There are over 4,000 bio stores and counting throughout France. There are over 200 La Vie Claire stores and about 60 Naturalia shops. You definitely won’t starve if you’re a vegan in France.
1. Label bio : qu’y a-t-il derrière l’étiquette ?, Sébastien Baer, France Info, 25/04/12
2. Un produit bio, c’est quoi ?, La Vie Claire, July 2012
3. La règlementation des produits bio, La Vie Claire, July 2012
4. Label bio : qu’y a-t-il derrière l’étiquette ?, Sébastien Baer, France Info, 25/04/12
1. Tomato, by photon_de on Flickr
2. Tina Chevalier: An outside view of the Vital Sante Bio Store.
3. Tina Chevalier: Organic veggies at La Vie Claire.
4. Tina Chevalier: Oat, Almond, Rice, Soy and Coconut Milks at La Vie Claire.
5. Tina Chevalier: Tofu, Seitan and Veggie Burgers at La Vie Claire.
6. Tina Chevalier: The wonderful Hervé Rose, Manager of Vital Sante Bio.