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French food industry consultant fears food shortage at end of 2020

Updated: May 6

Sylvain Zaffaroni is a food industry consultant based in Paris. His companies, Pour nourrir demain (literally “Feeding Tomorrow”) and HappyFeed, work for many major French food brands - including D’aucy, Président, Alpina Savoie, and Candia.

We spoke to him just as the major media outlets are starting to warn that food shortages could be on the horizon... He gives us his analysis of the outlook in France and Europe.


HOW ARE YOU GETTING BY? I’m quite serene. I’m surprised by myself. I thought I would be much more stressed out. But then, my work hasn’t been impacted that much. I still have plenty of things going on, and financially I’m ok for the time being.


Before, I would go see my clients at their workplace, now I see them on my screen.


My kids, two teenagers, are also coping quite well. My daughter was already spending a lot of time in confinement in her room before the lock-down! Their sleep cycle has been impacted big time though. Now they fall asleep at three or four in the morning and get up at 3pm! School is a joke right now. Their teachers send them stuff to copy, it’s a total waste of time.


WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE CURRENT SITUATION, AS A FOOD INDUSTRY CONSULTANT? I called all my contacts at the thirty-odd brands we work with, and they all said that there was no risk of a food shortage this year. Most of them have stocks that can last up to a year. Many were also supplying schools and restaurants before the pandemic, but those markets collapsed in the blink of an eye. So that surplus is now delivered to supermarkets.


But we are going to be in big trouble if the pandemic comes back at the end of the year. Then there could be a major food crisis. The problem is the workforce: if too many people get sick, who is going to plant and harvest? Also, who is going to do the packaging?


So far, the French food industry has proven to be very strong and organized. I’m amazed by how quickly most brands have adapted to the current situation. Production lines were changed. For example, a famous pasta maker decided to produce only their bestselling pasta to meet a surge in demand. Some brands closed sites and ramped up production in others. Many others adapted their logistics, and started paying truck drivers more for the increased risk involved. In France, the food industry’s hygiene standards are as drastic as the ones in hospitals. That’s why it copes particularly well in times of a pandemic.


Sylvain consults for some of the largest food brands in France

We all know people are buying more flour, eggs, canned food, and pasta right now. But did you know there has also been a huge increase in honey? Lune de Miel saw its sales go up by 80% in April! Honey seems to be the ultimate comfort food right now, soothing both the throat and the soul.


Right now, my company is preparing a White Paper to see how the current changes might impact consumer behavior in the long term. Is the current boom in organic and local food going to persist or is it just a temporary adaptation. From my standpoint, I certainly hope that local and organic will be the future!

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