Sunday, 23 January, 2022

Why Ricola is opening an ephemeral herbalist shop in Paris

Green facade, infusion bar, minty scent and plants in abundance… It’s impossible to go wrong by entering the Herboristerie by Ricola which opens its doors this Wednesday rue de Turenne in Paris. It is the plants that are in the spotlight in this ephemeral place, with all due respect to the well-known candy packets which are grouped (relegated?) In a corner forming a colorful table. Plants… naturally coming from Switzerland. “I brought some myself back by train,” says Alexandre Krouglikoff, Ricola’s marketing director for France & Belgilux.

But why is Ricola playing the herbalism? It’s not as if the Swiss candy brand that sells in more than 50 countries suffers from anonymity in France. “We have 92% of notoriety in France”, recognizes Alexandre Krouglikoff. Result among others of its famous advertisement “Riiicolaaa” or its typically Swiss yodelling … France is also the 3e manufacturer’s market in terms of turnover behind the United States and Germany – and the 2nde for per capita consumption behind Switzerland. Of the 325 million Swiss francs in turnover (around 285 million euros at the current rate) in 2017, France weighs 15%. A key player in the French cash register alongside Tic Tac and other Mentos, Ricola represents “41% of the market share in small pocket confectionery”, specifies its marketing director. “But the French are not necessarily aware of everything the brand represents.”

Family history and secret recipe

Ricola is first and foremost a family story and a secret recipe. This recipe, based on 13 plants including burnet, marshmallow, elderberry, peppermint, sage, primrose or thyme, was developed in 1940 by Emil Richterich, a baker by training but passionate about plants and who took 10 years to achieve this result. Unchanged since, the formula, the secret of which is well kept, constitutes the basis of all the perfumes marketed. A story shared by a storyteller in the ephemeral herbalism of Ricola.

Three generations later, the company which processes 1,400 tonnes of fresh plants each year is still located in Laufon in Switzerland. And that’s another part of its DNA. “More than 95% of our plants come from less than 450 kilometers around Laufon”, notes Alexandre Krouglikoff. A well-established traditional side but which is also accompanied by modernity. An independent start-up named Ricolab was created to reflect on how “to provide well-being by linking new technologies and plants”. A plant center designed by the architecture firm Herzog & de Meuron was built from clay in 2014 with a desire for sustainable construction.

Focus on the wellness market

Plants, production in conjunction with local farmers, sustainability… With the elements it highlights, Ricola, which produces 7 billion candies every year, ticks all the boxes to surf on current consumption trends. Indeed, it is difficult for a brand to escape the rise in naturalness and expectations regarding the quality of products. Hence the choice of an ephemeral herbalism? “Buying a Ricola box is an impulse purchase. With his discourse on plants, there is a desire to free the consumer from guilt”, analyzes Benoît Heilbrunn, professor of marketing at ESCP Europe. For the brand which sits between candy and medicinal plants, communicating its know-how on herbs is like betting on the well-being market, as opposed to junk-food.

“Today, we are in an economy of experience, brands can no longer content themselves with producing messages through interposed media”, adds Benoît Heilbrunn, who points to another element: the lack of consumer confidence in consumers. brands. It is true that only one in two French people believe they can trust brands as consumers according to the emerging consumption barometer published by L’ObSoCo in early 2018. Hence the search for a more direct link with consumers. But Benoît Heilbrunn notes all the same that this ephemeral herbalism is located… in the Marais. Not really original for a pop-up store.

But opening this ephemeral place in Paris is perhaps also the way to seduce… influencers – for whom an evening was reserved this Tuesday, October 9 – and through them to reach a different audience. It must be said that according to the consumer behavior observatory published in October by Odoxa and the communication agency Emakina, 41% of French people have bought, abandoned or recommended a product thanks to influencers. Ricola does not hide in any case wishing to rejuvenate his image. “Our penetration rate is 16% in France but it is around 20% among those over 50 and 13% among those under 50,” indicates Alexandre Krouglikoff. The potential for recruiting from this population, which is particularly sensitive to health and environmental issues, is clearly there.