Grand Frais stores are multiplying in Seine-Maritime: are their products local?

The Grand Frais brand has five stores in Seine-Maritime, including this one in Rouen. (©AF/76news)

madness Big Fresh keep taking over Seine Maritime with the opening at the end of September 2022 of the fifth store in the department, in Sainte-Marie-des-Champs (Seine-Maritime)close from Yvetot. Between the market and the hypermarket, this large surface is inspired by the configuration of covered markets and traditional halls, where the products are meticulously arranged in sleek and perfectly ordered shelves.

Originally from Lyon, the distribution chain was launched in 1992. It sells foodstuffs, the shelves being managed by Prosol, Despi or Novoviande for the butcher, Euro Ethnic Foods for groceries and Marie Blachere for the bakery. But are these products local?

To try to answer it, we interviewed several players, in particular Seine-Marine producers. We also visited the Grand Frais store in Rouen.

Fresh, local and seasonal vegetables and fruits?

Justin LemaitreSecretary General of Young farmers from Seine-Maritime, initially believes that “Grand Frais seems to be making an effort by offering French and seasonal fruit and vegetable products. On the origin of the foodstuffs, this seems to be in line with our principles”. And to add: “In the vast majority of products, we believe that the prices are correct. And if it benefits local producers, so much the better. »

Vegetables and fruits, the Grand Frais brand highlights the HVE label.  If the apple is French, it is impossible to know if it is from Normandy or if it comes from another region.
Vegetables and fruits, the Grand Frais brand highlights the HVE label. If the apple is French, it is impossible to know if it is from Normandy or if it comes from another region. (©AF/76news)

Grand Frais indicates on its website that it works “with more than 800 producers in France. Our fresh fruits and vegetables are carefully selected every day to guarantee you the best level of freshness and taste! “. If we clearly note the mention of France origin on the labels of certain fruits and vegetables from the Grand Frais de Rouen, there is however no indication as to exact origin products, in the same way as in most traditional hypermarkets.

A disputed label

Olivier Lainethe Haute-Normandie representative of the Peasant Confederation, wants to be more suspicious. In particular, he disputes the HVE label — High Environmental Value — widely promoted by the brand. “Today, more than 50% of our partner farms are certified High Environmental Value”, specifies Grand Frais, still on its website.

In the Grand Frais of Rouen, we have indeed been able to see this label affixed to many products. “It’s total bullshit. It’s not at all a real guarantee of quality,” replies Olivier Lainé. Born from the Grenelle Environment Forum in 2008, the HVE label certifies respectful agricultural practices of the environment. “The High Environmental Value is an official French certification promoting agricultural practices that are more respectful of the environment”, notes the Ministry of Agriculture on this subject.

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Pinned by UFC-Que Choisir

At the beginning of 2021, UFC-Que Choisir questioned itself and wrote: “The High Environmental Value (HVE) label, which encourages farmers to adopt measures favorable to the environment and biodiversity, competes all the more with organic as ‘it is not not as demanding. »

Still according to UFC-Que Choisir, the associations France nature environment (FNE) and Acting for the environmentthe Peasant Confederation and the Syndicate of organic processors and distributors (Synabio) denounced an “illusion of ecological transition”, calling it “massive greenwashing” and “deception” for consumers.

“Certainly, the specifications, dense, generally go in the right direction. But it shows major deficiencies, details the consumer association. Above all, pesticides, including the most harmful, are not excluded. » In September 2022, the newspaper the World noted that “the HVE has a lower level of requirement than the AB [ndlr, Agriculture Biologique] “. In addition, the AB or HVE labels do not allow to certify that the products are local.

Meat from France?

On dairy products and meat, Justin Lemaitre of the Young Farmers of Seine-Maritime considers that Grand Frais sometimes shows a ” lack of transparency. It says ‘made by our butcher’, but we don’t always know the origin of the raw material. ‘Made or transformed in France’ means nothing. We are always wary when we see this mention ”.

We checked the labeling of the meats at the Grand Frais de Rouen.
On the left, we find the mention ‘Made in France’ wholesale. The origin of the meat, French, is noted in smaller. On the right, for the pork, we note that the meat comes from the United Kingdom. (©AF/76news)

Again in the Grand Frais of Rouen, whether for chicken, pork or beef, we have seen that the majority of products on the shelves are labeled origin Francewhile others are flocked origin United Kingdom or Spain. The mentions, sometimes in small characters, remain relatively legible, even for products not originating in France. However, it is impossible to verify, for French meat, whether it is truly local or not.

When questioned, Patrice Faucon, the departmental president of the FNSEA (national federation of farmers’ unions), indicates that he has no contact with Grand Frais. “Its establishment on the territory is recent, it is a brand that does not make noise. We do not have enough hindsight at the moment, ”he explains. Also requested, the Grand Frais brand did not wish to answer our questions.

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