Wednesday, October 28, 2009
But then, after a year or so, life kind of... normalized. I disovered the occasional joys of hamburgers in Paradise: Paris. The best I've ever had.
Recently I discovered a site which is a boon to residents of France who, in between feasting on foie gras or poulet fermier, simply have to have their PB&J or Tex-Mex chili or pumpkin pie: My American Market, an online grocery store for American food in France. So important this time of year, too, when you just gotta have that candy corn or cranberry sauce!
When I first heard about it, I assumed it was a start-up by some enterprising American expats in France. Mais non! It was launched a few months ago by Anne-Claire Bocage, a French woman who had spent a few years in the U.S. Upon returning to France, she had a few cravings of her own, and --voila! -- a business was born.
Intrigued, I contacted Anne-Claire to ask a few questions.
(Full disclosure: no goods, services or funds were paid for this article. I'm now living in the land of Kroger and Food Lion, so I've got all the American food I can handle...)
1. How did you come up with the idea? Was it just inspiration? Frustration?
My American Market’s adventure all started because of a ranch dressing craving (big things can happen because of cravings, so don’t rebuff them!).
2. Where do you get your ideas for products to offer? Do you have a suggestion box for Americans who are craving certain products?
I did an extensive market study before launching; I looked at what other European stores were offering. I also polled potential customers through an online survey. I am very grateful over 300 people took the time to respond. Now that the website is up and running, I am getting a better feel of what is popular. I also get a lot of product suggestions that I take into account for expanding my selection.
3. What are your most popular items?
1. Kraft Macaroni & Cheese
2. Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups
3. Pepperidge Farm Cheddar Goldfish
4. A&W Root Beer
5. Little Becky’s Marshmallows
6. Aunt Jemima’s Cornbread Mix
7. Dr Pepper
8. Reese’s Pieces
9. Aunt Jemima Pancake Syrup
10. Jif Peanut Butter
4. Do you have many French customers, or are they mostly American? Other nationalities?
Well, I don’t check IDs when customers are placing an order! But I am getting a sense that I am mostly serving Americans, or French people who have lived in the States for several years. Sometimes when promoting my service, it has been a challenge to deal with negative stereotypes French people carry about American food and cuisine. But I consider this is one of my missions as an “épicerie américaine!” Read more about it on my blog.
5. What is the reaction of French people when you tell them about your business?
I often hear "Why on earth would you want to sell unhealthy American food when you live in a country with such sophisticated and savory cuisine?"
Well, don’t get me wrong: I love living in France and I am not complaining about the eating part either! Yet, I really enjoy American food for several main reasons:
- It reminds me of my “American home”
- I like the taste of it! Nothing can beat beef jerky as a snack to me. I know some of you would travel very far for a peanut butter cup. There are no substitutes here in grocery stores for cooking a decent pumpkin pie or spicing up your homemade chili.
- I love spreading American tastes. It makes me feel like I am contributing to fighting stereotypes or short-mindedness.
6. Are there any other services like yours in France?
Yes. There are a couple of stores in Paris that carry an equivalent selection of American food products. Yet, My American Market’s way of doing business is dramatically different.
First, it’s an online store. Not everyone in France lives in Paris! And even in Paris, it can be a hassle to get stuck in traffic, fight for a parking spot, carry heavy grocery bags around. It was important to me to offer a fast and convenient service for anyone to shop whenever the cravings get them and to have the products be delivered right to their door, wherever that front door might be located!
Second, I am building a business that is more than just a regular “Epicerie Américaine.” It is a place with a sense of community, the American way! I use Web 2.0 tools and create a platform with many possibilities to communicate, exchange, network, cooperate, play and have fun with other members of the American community and friends. I’d like everyone to take part in the process if they wish, so My American Market becomes everyone’s contribution. If anyone would like to get a better feel of what I am doing, please become fan of My American Market on Facebook.
7. Do you have an estimate of how many American expat households there are in France? [I know there are official numbers, and some unofficial numbers.] Or semi-American, i.e. an American/French couple.
It is very hard to know how many Americans are currently living in France. I estimate there are 100,000+ citizens: 50% in Paris and its suburb, 50% in the rest of France.
8. Any good customer quotes?
Here is a small selection of client testimonials that I have received:
"I just love My American Market! Since I can't go to the States that often, I now have a super solution for getting my Reese’s candies, non-Canadian pancake syrup, Pam cooking spray and whatever else I feel like at the moment. American airport customs love to tear apart suitcases for pancake syrup, so now I don't have to worry about whether they can get my suitcase closed again or not. So when I do go to the States, I can just concentrate on leaving room in my suitcases for things that won't melt, leak or get smashed. With such excellent service and fast delivery, I'm thrilled!" Jenny from Merville (31)
"I am an American (originally from the Colorado area) currently living in Marseille with my (French) wife and our 4 year old son. We moved here last summer. I am often in search of products here and have to keep asking my mom to send them, so this is great!" Sean from Nice (06)
"I am married to a French man and have been living in the French culture for 25 years. But it is still important for me to celebrate American holidays. Now I know where to shop for next Thanksgiving." Susan from Neuilly sur Seine (92)
I'm thinking candy corn, cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin pie, mint jelly, candy canes, etc.
Of course, we do carry seasonal products and the Holiday season should be our busiest time of the year. Our Thanksgiving and Christmas products can be found in the seasonal products category.
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