Bonjour America! Michel et Augustin cookies roll out nationwide at Starbucks

By Elaine Watson contact

- Last updated on GMT

Michel et Augustin products are now available in 21 countries - and all 50 US states
Michel et Augustin products are now available in 21 countries - and all 50 US states

Related tags: Starbucks

If you’ve heard of Michel et Augustin, you’re most likely French, or living in New York – where its pastries have recently started appearing in upmarket food stores. But that’s likely to change pretty quickly, predict its founders, who have just struck a deal that has catapulted the quirky French food brand onto the national stage with distribution in 7,624 Starbucks outlets in 50 US states.

Co-founder Augustin Paluel-Marmont is also in talks with some of the biggest names in US grocery retail about giving his pastries some shelf space, not bad going considering that he only set up offices (the ‘bananeraie’) in Brooklyn in 2015.

“It’s just the beginning of our story here. We generated revenues of €50m in 2015, and 90% of this was in France, and the US market is six times bigger, so we just see huge potential in the US.”

The quirky branding, guerilla marketing tactics and super-charged youtube videos for which the brand is known also resonate well with Millennials in the US, he said.

However, navigating the food retail market in the US – which is very fragmented - is very different to the way things work in France, where buying power is consolidated among just a handful of key players, he observed.

“In the US, we’ve also been going through brokers in many cases, which is different ​[to the way things work in other markets].”

michel-augustin-logo

“It’s just the beginning of our story here. We generated revenues of €50m in 2015, and 90% of this was in France, and the US market is six times bigger, so we just see huge potential in the US.” 

Augustin Paluel-Marmont, co-founder, Michel et Augustin

We tried to get into Starbucks in France and in the US in the past and were told no thanks

Given these challenges, the speed with which things have taken off in the US has taken everyone by surprise, admits Paluel-Marmont, who says the company – which he founded in Paris in 2003 with his friend Michel de Rovira - had tried, and failed, to get into Starbucks several times in the past.

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“We tried to get into Starbucks in France and in the US in the past and were told no thanks, and then we had a call on a Thursday night in June ​[2015] from the global assistant to ​[Starbucks’ founder and CEO] Howard Schultz asking if we could send some samples to Seattle for a meeting the following Monday,” ​Paluel-Marmont told FoodNavigator-USA.

“They had come across the brand in a store in New York and called the number on the packet.”

In a moment of whimsy (or madness), Paluel-Marmont decided to dispatch some team members to fly to Starbuck’s Seattle HQ to deliver the samples in person, and Starbucks was so impressed it decided to test market the cookie squares (Lemon meringue, & Dark chocolate with a pinch of sea salt) in a 25-store trial, which expanded to a 415-store trial in October 2015.

They passed with flying colors, and in January 7, 2016, the brand went nationwide.

We could be like the Chobani of chocolate mousse!

While Michel et Augustin has more than 100 skus in France, from drinkable yogurt to cheese crackers, it chose to make its US debut with its butter cookies and pastries, in part for practical reasons (shelf-stable products are easier to send across the Atlantic).

michel-et-Augustin-petites-baguettes

The products for the US market are still manufactured in France, although that could change in the future, said Paluel-Marmont, who along with his co-founder, retains a minority stake in the business, which is now majority owned by Artemis, the holding company of French businessman and art collector François Pinault.

We are also considering producing our amazing chocolate mousse locally in the US, because there is such a huge opportunity – you can find a good chocolate mousse in restaurants, but there is really nothing in the retail market. We could be like the Chobani of chocolate mousse!

"But it’s just a project at this stage. We still only have 10 people in the US – although it will be 15 by the summer. We’re still a start-up here.”

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