France, the European leader in wheat, has given Germany the keys to supplying its packaging for flour. It is paying a high price today. Germany is a world leader in adaptable packaging and almost the sole supplier of flour packaging to its neighbour.
At the start of confinement, there was a pasta, sugar and flour rush. This unique environment was an opportunity for the French to revisit the kitchen by increasing the production of homemade bread and cakes. But quickly, the reality became apparent: in mass distribution, for lack of replenishment, there is almost no more flour. In about a third of supermarkets, the shelves are empty.
“Throughout France, flour sales to individuals have doubled in the past five weeks; millers are working like crazy,” says Jean-François Loiseau, president of the Meunerie de France and of the Axéréal cooperative.
To meet the high demand, millers are adapting their activity while their bakery outlets have collapsed.
France has a large supply of wheat. However, for the past few weeks, it has been an obstacle course to find flour in mass distribution outlets. The SARS-CoV-2 containment rules have resulted in sales of 1 kg bags doubling compared to last year.
Artisanal bakeries have recorded sharp drops linked to the change in consumer habits. On this circuit, flour sales collapsed by 50 percent in the first week of confinement, with disparities in town and in the countryside, where the artisan remains more accessible.
To meet changing demands, flour mills are therefore forced to adapt. Grands Moulins de Paris has launched La Boulangine, a one-kilo sachet of flour that bakers can market to consumers who no longer find it in supermarkets.
The Planchot flour mill has launched new packaging of 10 kg on conventional and organic T65 flours for its regular customers.
For its part, the Bellot flour mill closed its online sales service, saturated with calls from consumers in a few days. The company preferred to supply its historical customers. Its sales in supermarkets have multiplied by 20.
Very much in demand by major brands, the miller is limited in its production by the lack of empty bags of 1 kg. “In four weeks, I liquidated my stock planned for six months! The suppliers of this packaging in Europe can be counted on the fingers of one hand. They too, their activity is slowed down when they always receive more requests! The deadlines therefore go from a few weeks to a few months,” a manager explained.
In the event of packaging running out, its teams would find themselves at a standstill. He is therefore looking for new suppliers and in the meantime, markets 25 kg bags to supermarkets. He testified: “When their shelves were empty and they couldn’t wait, I offered them these packages. They tried and in a few days, they sold 1.5 tonnes of flour.”
The flour mills in France are still figuring out the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic but they hope not to be the only ones paying the bills.