How expensive is food and drink in France?

We know taxes are high in France, and that some things can be expensive. But how does the price of food compare to the rest of Europe and beyond? 

How expensive is food and drink in France?
(Photo: Ludovic Marin / AFP)

France has many temptations to woo visitors and foreign residents: its scenery, history, the lifestyle, the food and the drink.

While some things here are more expensive than elsewhere – we’re looking at you, second-hand car dealers – and the taxes are notoriously high, what about the cost of groceries and wine? How do they compare?

Eurostat, which monitors price levels across the EU, EEA and EU candidate countries, measured food and non-alcoholic beverages in France as the 10th most expensive overall (out of 36) – although of course within France there are significant regional variations.

READ ALSO 7 tips to keep your grocery shopping in France affordable

Overall, food in France is more expensive than the average of the 19 countries that currently use the euro as currency.

According to Eurostat’s data and price level index, food prices in France were 11 percent higher than the EU average in 2021, and 20 percent higher for fruit, vegetables and potatoes.

Non-alcoholic beverages in France, however, were slightly cheaper than average, as were milk, cheese and eggs, while alcoholic drinks were, on average, a small amount higher than average. 

While food is certainly more expensive in France than in most countries, wages are also higher than average. 

Therefore, a more accurate way of measuring the true cost of food would be to measure how much of a household’s monthly income is spent on food. 

In Romania, food made up more than a quarter of household expenditure, making food more expensive there for households as it eats up a larger chunk of consumers’ budgets, despite lower prices than the EU average. Across 36 countries measured by Eurostat, food and non-alcoholic beverages made up around 13 percent of total consumption expenditure by households. 

In France, that percentage was 13.9 percent in 2021, down from 14.9 percent the previous year, which pretty much puts France bang average on the list.

The same report published in 2021 found that the cost of food in the UK was around 26 percent lower than in France. That occurs across most different food types, particularly for fruit and vegetables, meat and fish, where the difference is over one-third.

In France, around 60 percent of all food is purchased in supermarkets. According to the l’Institut de liaisons des entreprises de consommation (Ilec): “Hypermarkets attract more premium, regional or local products that pull the indices up, even if they coexist with a low-cost call offer.”

Dominique Amirault, President of the Federation of Enterprises and Entrepreneurs of France (FEEF) added: “The demand for local, ethical, authentic products is currently very strong [in France]. And these products are not cheaper than others.”

Another reason why French food is relatively expensive compared to the UK at the time of the 2021 report was the cost of labour. In 2021, the cost per hour of work in France – including taxes and social charges – was €37.50, compared to an average of €28.50 in the EU, €37 in Germany, and around €28 in the UK.

Many of these figures are likely to have changed in the intervening 12 months. In the current cost of living crisis, inflation in the UK was 8.2 percent in June 2022, while in France it was edging towards 6 percent.

Anyone wandering around a French supermarket will find the prices significantly higher than in the UK or US. But on the other hand, the fruit and veg have real flavour and the meat isn’t injected with water and antibiotics, so we would contend that it’s worth paying more for.

Numbeo’s cost-of-living index listed France, overall as the 15th most expensive country in the world to live – though it was much closer to both the US and UK (27th and 28th on the list) for food shopping and going to a restaurant.

Another plus, France’s food markets are cultural experience in their own right – AND they are often cheaper than supermarkets.

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