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French agri-food exports and retail

Retailers are a driving force at an international level for food companies in their country of origin.

French retail brand in a shop in Bucharest. © INRA, A. Cheptea
Updated on 09/25/2019
Published on 09/02/2019

Retail is a highly internationalized sector. In 2014, one third of the sales of multinational retailers were thus made outside their country of origin. This internationalization underwent a sharp increase in the first decade of this century, as the saturation of national markets pushed retailers to seek new outlets, mainly in developing countries (where retail was not well developed). The French retail sector has been the leader in that trend, with the existence of over 80 foreign markets (in Europe, South America, Africa and Asia).

The results of this work show that the growing internationalization of retail helps promote the food exports of the retailers’ country of origin. This is particularly the case for French companies who are already certified to supply retailers on the French market. It thus appears that supplying retailers at a national level, and notably with private-label products, favours exports to countries where French retailers are established. This advantage disappears once these retailers leave the foreign market.

As a result of their market power and privileged access to consumers, retailers are becoming essential links in the food industry. The study of the impact of these companies on the companies in host countries has led to new avenues of research. In particular, if retailers initially arrive with their own suppliers, local producers (via certification) may gradually become suppliers of these retailers, and in turn benefit from retail in order to export. To analyse this potential effect, it is necessary to have access to new data from companies in different countries, which would make it possible to investigate the link between the establishment of retailers in a country, and the activity of local companies.

Partners: this study was carried out by UMR SMART-LERECO in collaboration with the CEPII (Centre d'études prospectives et d'informations internationales)

Funding: this work was funded by the FP7 MULTIRETAIL project - Grant 331958 as part of the Marie Curie Actions programme as well as the FP7 FOODSECURE project - Grant 290693.

Associated publications:

  • Cheptea, A., Emlinger, C., & Latouche, K. (2015). Multinational Retailers and Home Country Food Exports. American Journal of Agricultural Economics, 97(1), 159-179. DOI: doi.org/10.1093/ajae/aau017
  • Cheptea, A., Emlinger, C., & Latouche, K. (2019). Exporting firms and retail internationalization: Evidence from France. Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, 28(3), 561-582. DOI: doi.org/10.1111/jems.12294