Paying farmers a fair price for their product pays off for French retail food brand

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THE DECISION to focus on consumer desires and transparently declare how much farmers will get for
each product is paying up for a fledgling French retailer of basic food goods.

C’est Qui Le Patron? (Who is the boss?) was set up in 2016 to provide French consumers a brand that more closely aligned with their values and that provided a fair price to the farmers producing the food.

The founders of the business, brothers Laurent and Nicolas Chabanne, have been particularly strict in keeping the business free from outside influence as possible, which has meant not aligning with any major agribusinesses.

Speaking at the recent Grain Growers Innovation Generation conference, Shane Masters, head of food and agribusiness investments with French agricultural investment business Unigrains, said the C’es Qui Le Patron team had built up a niche in products such as milk and flour.

As part of the transparency pledge on the labelling the consumer can see how much a farmer will receive as a result of retail sales.

“For a $2.70 package of flour the consumers will be able to see there is a guaranteed price paid of $326 a tonne for the wheat to the farmer,” Mr Masters said.

The brand is likely to spark the interest of both Australian consumers and farmers in light of high profile controversies about pricing, such as the major supermarkets selling $1 a litre milk, meaning dairy farmers were paid less than the cost of production.

Mr Masters said providing the data on the prices received by growers would not be particularly onerous.

“You could forward buy the grain at an acceptable price and then show what you are doing, it certainly is working in France, the guys have enjoyed huge success.”

The C’Est Le Patron brand first emerged from a similar situation to Australia, with French dairy farmers struggling to make ends meet due to low milk prices.

As part of the deal, consumers surveys were used to decide on the characteristics of the final product, including the grazing style of the cows and the amount paid to the farmer, with the most popular responses chosen.

Along with paying a fair price to farmers, consumers of the brand have also highlighted environmental concerns, saying they are happy to pay slightly more to ensure for an environmentally friendly option.

Similar initiatives are now being launched across southern Europe in nations such as Spain and Italy.

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