From our special correspondent in the hype of the moment,
Lunch break, June 7, 2018. We kindly offered to have a good old Do Mac when Thomas, our colleague, looked at us with a sympathetic look in front of our – supposed – bad taste: “Well no, we’re not 15 anymore. We’re going to make a poké “. Understand a poke bowland for the bottom two who escaped the food hype made in Hawaii: a bowl of rice, fresh fruit and a source of protein, traditionally fish. About 15 euros spent later – including 2 for a little extra chicken – we had just jumped on the bandwagon.
Four years have passed, and it is sprouting poké outlets like mushrooms all over France. Even traditional restaurants have gotten into it and are offering their revisited version. In figures, that gives 200 million bowls sold in France in 2021, informs Bernard Boutboul, president of Gira Conseil, a firm in the expertise of food consumption outside the home. The bowl would therefore be at fast food what the Spritz is to the cocktail: so branch. But how did what we still considered five years ago as an unmixed salad have imposed itself in this way?
Veni, Vidi, Heathly
To find out, back to basics. Or rather to this dear Thomas, just to ask him how he smelled it: “It’s obvious: it’s fresh, satiating and healthy”, tells us this former journalist turned bookseller. Neither too fat nor too heavy, welcome to the world of heathly, which meets current requirements. François Blouin, founder of Food Service Vision, explains: “There is real transparency in poké, which the consumer attaches more and more importance: we see the products, often fresh and unprocessed, we select them, we know what we eat. Rice also has the advantage of being naturally gluten-free – again a current demand.
As a good commercial, Emilie, behind the bar of the Pokébowl 9em (Paris), boasts of her merchandise: “It’s a much healthier lunch break than the burger or the kebab. It’s balanced, with a good carbohydrate-protein-lipid ratio! A promise not necessarily kept, since a nutritionist will tell you about the fairly high glycemic index of most components and some poor product choices by the consumer that can ruin the caloric value.
Marie-Eve Laporte, teacher-researcher at the IAE Paris-Sorbonne and specialist in eating behavior, takes a positive look: “It’s not the top of the healthy but it’s actually less calorie than most burgers or other fast food. Nicolas Nouchi, from CHD Expert-Datassential, explains: “Not everything is heathly in poké, but compared to most fast food, it adds fruits and vegetables, which provides fiber and vitamins”. Always it took.
In the midst of a debate on the healthy side or not of the bowl, Emilie adds a second strong argument: her 200 grams of rice on average. Understand: a satiating product that avoids the cravings of 4 p.m. and that devil of Kinder Bueno in the coffee machine. There too, mistrust on the side of Bernard Boutboul: “It is no more satiating than any salad of rice, pasta or other starchy foods. »
Because yes, let’s stop the pretense: the poke bowl is a salad. Customized, yes, but a salad. This also partly explains its success, since the mixed salad is the fourth most consumed product on sale to take away in France, behind the sandwich-burger-pizza trio (yum), informs Bernard Boutboul. 550 million mixed salads are sold each year, a total that does not take into account poké bowls. And the president of Gira Conseil assures him: “If we add the two, the product will surely come third”.
A 2.0 salad therefore, with what Nicolas Nouchi calls premiumization: basically, raising the quality of what you eat yourself. Back in 2018, with our additional 2 euros invested in chicken and a better protein intake. Beyond elevating the product, it’s the fact of being able to compose your own salad that counts: the diversity of the offer, of course, and “the consumer’s satisfaction of having a unique product that corresponds to their desires “. And it’s good for the restorers, because the product is more expensive once customized and personalized. The average cash receipt for fast food stood at 11.50 euros in 2021 in fast food instead of 9.70 euros in 2019, according to a study by CDH expert.
The beautiful more than the good
Another advantage: at a time when it is increasingly difficult to start your plate without being interrupted – “aaaaatteeeeends, I take a picture of the dish first” – the poke bowl has the advantage of being beautiful with its well-organized ingredient colors. “Much of customer satisfaction is more about aesthetics than food content when it comes to food instagrammable “, notes Nicolas Nouchi. It’s mathematical: “the more photogenic it is, the more it is shared on the networks, the more the product makes people talk. And being good-looking also helps on delivery sites,” adds François Blouin.
Because the success of the poké bowl is also part of the dynamic rise in take-out and home delivery… and the reduction in lunch time, explains Marie-Eve Laporte. To sum up: “Poké is part of all current consumer trends”. And it seems set to last, agrees all the specialists. François Blouin: “The progression of the poké bowl is not over. It still has market share to conquer and solidify, we are not yet at the peak”. Thomas has not finished reminding us that he was right.