On your marks…today we are off for a quick tour of some iconic French brands. Oddly, the same word for brands, les marques, is also a literal translation of the word ‘mark’ in English. I suppose there is a link if you think of it as a trademark or a mark of quality.
While people here in France are often somewhat resistant to marketing campaigns, French shoppers are nonetheless big on brands.
My late Belle-mère swore by certain brands as being a sign of quality performance, superior workmanship or good taste. She believed that a good product did half the work for you, whether cleaning the clothes, cooking the food or making you look chic.
Being even more resistant to this kind of thinking than the French, I had to disagree. But after a few years of shopping in France I must say she had a point.
Bottled mineral water is a big thing in France and I’ve blogged before about how we have entire supermarket aisles devoted to it. Badoit, pictured above, with its choice of finely or intensely sparkling bubbles, is still one of my favourite French brands.
When it comes to the other kind of bubbly, it’s a different story. I’ve often heard that the best champagnes are the smaller houses rather than the big brands, by my Beau-père swears by Nicolas Feuillatte. And it’s often more competitively priced at the checkout.
As for the stinky cheese, the Languetot brand of raw milk camembert is one of the best name brands. ‘Au lait cru’ and ‘moulé à la louche’ are two signs that it’s one the good old fashioned way. Along with the ‘appellation d’origine’ that means it’s the real deal.
Le Petit is pretty good, too.
As the old ad campaign went, il n’y a que Maille qui maille…
Maille really is the only mustard for me. Dijon, smooth or grainy, and with no mayonnaise mixed in please! I also have a strong penchant for their cider vinegar as posted with my vinaigrette recipe awhile back…
House brands, which many supermarkets do offer in many product lines, are usually cheaper but not always of the same quality as the original. On the other hand, some are very good value for the money; it’s just a matter of trying your luck.
For those who smoke despite all the warning labels, and an appallingly high proportion of the French population still do, Gauloises cigarettes are a classic. Slightly less stinky than the horrible Gitanes.
One of the first cars I noticed on the road here was the old Citroen DS. A big, hulking, low-to-the-ground classic of French engineering. Most French people tend to be true to one of the big three: Renault, Peugeot or Citroën.
Petit Bâteau is a classic brand of kids’ clothing with the iconic sailor stripes. The 1920s brand expanded into clothes for adults a few years ago. The quality of the cotton is particularly good.
There are many more, of course. My morning would not be complete without a probiotic yogurt of the Activia brand. Nature, bien sûr… With a slice of wholewheat toast from Jacquet.
These are just a few of the marques that have marked my experience in France (for which I have received no promotional consideration, I hasten to add!). What are some of yours?