• On March 17, 2020, the France went into lockdown to deal with the coronavirus. This extraordinary period was an opportunity to question our lifestyles and to reflect on a new post-confinement society.
  • Three years later, and with air traffic on the verge of returning to pre-pandemic levels, 20 Minutes takes stock of the promise of a fairer, greener and simply more livable world.
  • In this second episode, food and the French. "Eating better", which was supposed to replace industrial and unhealthy food with healthier, organic, local and respectful food, is struggling to fit into our menus.

When on the evening of March 16, 2020, Emmanuel Macron announced the implementation of a first confinement against Covid-19, many French people saw in this parenthesis an opportunity to move to a "world after". For many, this had to go through a more local, more organic, healthier, more "homemade" cuisine, having more fun... Three years later, the French have regained the course of their lives, and their old habits, with a few exceptions.

First observation, no doubt, the French remain French: "Pleasure has always been their first concern associated with food, whether before or after Covid-19," Laurence David, General Delegate of the Nestlé Foundation, who published in February the third edition of the Foundation's Food & Families Observatory, told 20 Minutes. However, the importance of pleasure has declined slightly since the arrival of the coronavirus: "58% of French people cited it as a primary concern in 2019, compared to 50% in 2022," notes Laurence David. On the other hand, the issue of health occupies minds and stomachs much more. A "direct consequence of the health crisis".

The "homemade" looks gray

However, what better for health than "homemade". Unfortunately, according to a webinar by the Nielsen Institute dedicated to the analysis of French consumption in 2022, despite a boom during Covid-19, the "homemade" is now in decline. Thus, the French "eat more processed fruits and vegetables than before, such as compotes or soups," notes Florence Thorez, dietician nutritionist in Paris and member of the French Association of Dieticians Nutritionists (AFDN). "It's better than eating a cake, certainly, but a compote contains less fiber than a real apple," regrets the nutritionist.

The Nielsen Institute sees this phenomenon in the types of purchases of consumers in supermarkets: more dishes already prepared and fewer ingredients for cooking. Faced with the return of prepared meals, some evoke a lack of time to make food. "In 2022, the notion of ease and speed is back in the top 3 concerns of the French associated with weekday food," adds Laurence David. And, precisely, speed and ease are the selling points of delivery platforms, which have also benefited from the development of teleworking.

The delivery boom

"On the one hand, there are teleworkers who are happy and cook. On the other hand, there are those who get delivered or who quickly eat prepared meals. And they are a lot in this second scenario, "comments Florence Thorez. And unfortunately, delivered or prepared meals are usually not synonymous with healthy eating. "Meal deliveries are booming, with huge starchy shares and very low protein shares. It's just pasta, rice and carbohydrates," says the dietician.

De facto, as Bastien Pahus, general manager of Uber Eats France, Switzerland and Belgium, tells us, "the top 3 most ordered dishes are burgers, pizzas and sushi. In the top 10 nationally, we find poke bowl, Asian cuisine, fried/grilled chicken, Lebanese cuisine, Mexican cuisine." A cuisine rich in nutritional intakes. And this increase in the use of deliveries described by Florence Thorez is also noted on the side of Uber Eats: "Our activity in France tripled between the first quarter of 2020 and the fourth quarter of 2021, in two years," says Bastien Pahus. And delivery does not only concern workers, but also families: a third of dishes delivered to homes were ordered by families, says the NPD research firm in early 2022.

Food insecurity is more present than ever

But if the French tend to be delivered more and less homemade, when they cook, they want to use local products. In 2022, according to a Welcome to the Farm study and Ipsos, "80% of consumers say they now buy products" nearby, "a trend that is growing (69% of local buyers say they are currently buying more than before) and is expected to continue to strengthen (59% say they will buy more in the next 6 months)"

However, this increase in local food purchases is unfortunately not synonymous with the attractiveness of organic. In fact, sales in the sector have been declining for two years, including a 7.4% drop in volume sales in supermarkets in 2022 alone, according to research firm NielsenIQ. Organic products are also "on average 30% more expensive," notes the firm. "I choose organic for some products, but I can't afford it for everything," confirmed Cécile, a reader of 20 Minutes.

Because yes, in three years, another element has also come to upset the daily lives of French households: the rise in prices. However, "it's hard to encourage people who have little money to eat more balanced," says Florence Thorez.

Because, the priority for some is not "eating better" but "eating". Last November, food aid associations sounded the alarm. Between April and November alone, the number of beneficiaries of the Restos du Cœur had jumped by 12% and 60% of them live in "extreme poverty", compared to 50% a year earlier.

Our file on Covid-19

In addition, more than a third of Food Bank beneficiaries in 2022 "have been using food aid for less than 6 months" and nearly six out of ten beneficiaries come to request this assistance once or twice a week, an increase of 6% compared to 2020, according to a study released on February 27, conducted by the CSA Institute. And, according to the same study, due to a succession of crises (including that of Covid-19), Food Banks, which welcomed 820,000 beneficiaries in 2011, now have to take care of 2.4 million people, three times more people in ten years.

  • Covid 19
  • Society
  • Containment
  • Feeding
  • Food aid
  • Fast food