Marion Le Roux, food designer : “There is a real opportunity for promoting typically French foods.”07-12-2015
Marion Le Roux is the founder of AOA Food Design Innovation, based in Nantes.
She works with a wide range of businesses, from industrials to small – medium sized companies and even restaurants, on food-related projects, on an industrial scale.
Frenchfoodandbeverages: How does France position itself in terms of food design compared to other countries?
Marion Le Roux: France’s positioning is historically founded on prestige. What we are currently experiencing in France is what I would refer to as the new “street food” trend, including food trucks, which sell burgers and other types of fast food. The burger that previously cost two euros at a food retailer of international renown now costs seven euros, as it has been rethought entirely and given a French twist. The objective is to add value to those products made commonplace outside of France. In China and the US there is a high demand for this French, elegant style.
So how, for example, could we add value to French snacks in export markets?
ML: Sales of our regional products, like cheese and wine, have met with great success. This means that there is a real opportunity for promoting typically French foods abroad. Why not make our famous quiche Lorraine the latest thing? These speciality foods are still not widely available abroad, but I am convinced there is a real opportunity for promoting typically French foods.
In terms of food design in France and abroad, what trends are you seeing, with particularly emphasis on packaging?
ML: For the last three years, consumers have been wanting traditional products with a unique flavour and an extensive range. They want healthier food more local and of good quality. “Eat less, but better”, in a nutshell. So the idea is to stop the overflow of plastic packaging and instead move towards simpler materials. This could be sheets of brown paper, for a no-frills, Frenchified feel. Several “packaging free” retailers have now launched in Nantes and Paris. In terms of labelling, the focus is as simple as possible. But remember, even though consumers want great-tasting food, price is still the determining factor that drives purchase.
Where does France seek its inspiration in terms of packaging?
ML: France finds much of its inspiration from its European neighbours, but for a few years now we have been focusing on giving a fresh look to traditional French products, of which there are many. A particularly innovative example proves this shift. TheMichel et Augustin brand, which knows how to exploit the “French touch” has completely revolutionised the biscuit category. It is a true exemple of a company proud to be French and determined to exploit its roots in export markets.
How is information communicated on products?
ML: Companies create recipes or tweak existing recipes, with quite natural products, with an aim of giving consumer transparency. Any legal requirements or technical information is displayed on the back of the packaging. Country or region of origin is also an important consideration not to be overlooked. Local products are on trend and knowing that a local producer has been involved in a product is a real perceived benefit for the consumer. This type of information may be associated with a more traditional form of packaging.
How can we redesign existing, non-processed foods?
ML: An interesting case study would be Charal meat, on which our agency consulted. Even though meat has a very masculine image, our research told us that this raw product could be consumed in a very festive, social context. From this we realised that we needed to really capitalise on the festive aspect. We advised our client to market the product as an appetiser, with four types of meat presented in slices or cubes, with two different dipping sauces. The meat has now carved its niche as an aperitif product, alongside vegetable or seafood products which also sit well as a party nibble.
Do you have any advice or feedback to share with other French companies?
ML: Think of food design as an investment rather than a simple cost. Afterall, the French authorities fully support this innovative approach.