Anne-Marie Gaultier

Marketing and Communication Director
“Our stores will be all about experiences and new services.”
Anne-Marie Gaultier, CMO at the French supermarket chain Intermarché, talks to us about creativity in times of recession, and about getting consumers to eat healthier. 
You spent 15 years in advertising before moving to the client side as a CMO.
‘Yeah, and I think that's the best call. Spending 15 years in the advertising agencies, you learn all the different markets, you learn what is a brand, and how to build a brand. Then, when you switch to the client side, you have all those tools. It makes you perform better.’

What, more than anything, did you bring to Intermarché? And what changes have you made?
‘Intermarché, and the food market in general, are very interesting because of the healthy eating trend. I've been in fashion and luxury, which was fun, but today's key interest for people is in what they eat and how to stay in good health, especially after COVID. Intermarché have their own plants, so we can trace and change our recipes overnight. Out of our 10,000 different products, 6,500 are food products. We’re changing and evolving recipes, so that they contain less salt, sugar and additives, and are better for the environment. We did a huge study to understand what people want. We listen to the customer, that's the obvious thing to do in marketing. But next we figure out what needs to change - per product. We’re also on Yuka now, the app which allows you to scan the products for their health value. In France, some 15 million people scan their products.’

Your market has been disrupted by flash deliveries of the likes of Gorillas and Getir. How will you compete with such new players entering the market?
‘The growth is on click and collect and fast delivery, so we are definitely going down that road. Now the question is about the price. Not everyone wants a delivery because it has a price tag, unless you include the delivery costs into your price. I can't say more about it but it’s part of the services that consumers expect.’

How much of your current business is e-commerce?
‘At the moment it's about 5 per cent. It's growing and we expect it to be way higher. It's one of the biggest growth pockets. We have potentially 1,800 stores all over France. We have 800 click-and-collect e-commerce sites and we could cover all of France. In small towns you can click and collect your food products.’
When thinking of Intermarché, one tends to picture a massive store on the edge of town, selling everything from groceries to toys and power tools…
‘No, the Intermarché store format is that of a supermarket, not a hypermarket. We have a lot of smaller supermarkets. We did very well during COVID because we were in all the small towns. And in our smaller stores people felt more secure. They were also closer to their homes.’

What's the future of grocery shopping? Will it be mostly online? Will supermarkets still exist in their current form in ten years’ time?
‘We'll always have the real stores and services. They have what we call the drive, the e-commerce and deliveries. After all, it's just a service. Our stores will be all about experiences and new services. We're changing the whole way our stores are because we're putting the traditional food in front; the fruit and vegetables, the fish, the meat, all the traditional products that people want to see. Intermarché has marché in its name, which means market. So, we want to go back to this DNA of the market which is the fresh food and the experience of talking with someone.’

So, it feels like an outing…
‘And getting the advice of somebody who is knowledgeable about the fruits, the vegetables and the fish. We know all about the latter because we have our own boats. We have the number one fishing fleet in France.’

Do you see a segmentation of physical and online customers?
‘The reality is that we don't have people that buy exclusively on the internet. What we do know is: when people like your brand, they will buy in your stores and on your website. So, what we're pushing is mixing the stores with e-commerce. Again, it's just a service. If you don't have much time and you know the products you want, you just order it online.’

How is Intermarché coping with the current supply chain problems the industry is facing?
‘It's a huge issue because we are lacking mustard and oil. On top of it, we have major inflation so it's all about prices. For a while, consumers chose quality over price. Now it's back to price. It's about delivering better quality whilst bringing the price down simultaneously.’

Smaller portions perhaps?
‘We're rethinking everything through the prism of price.’

How are you supporting consumers with less spending power?
‘The first thing we did was change our loyalty programs radically to focus on our own private label. Before, it was focused on fruits and vegetables, now it's focused on our private labels.’

Because that’s cheaper.
‘Because, firstly, the quality is there; we're number one in the Yuka scoring. On top of that they're cheaper. With our new program a family can buy everything they need and get up to 10 per cent off the rebate on those products. We even have our program for underprivileged people who are below the poverty line. We give them a 5 per cent discount throughout the store if they can prove they have a very low income.’
How do people prove that?
‘With the same certificate you show for school meals, sport classes, etc. It's very familiar in France.’

How do the A-brands respond to Intermarché pushing its private labels?
‘People will still want Coca-Cola and Nutella so we can't do without them. Our role is to feed our customers and keep them happy and satisfied. They want the big brands but they also want our brands. It's a mix. We have stores that offer other big brands and access to better food for a lesser price without private labels.’

Tell us about the importance of creativity?
‘We won a lot of awards for our advertising. On top of that it's been very effective because we have very emotional ads. We always start with consumer insights. We're not about the big price-down logos. We go into people's lives and we get them involved, make them laugh or cry.’

What role will Meta play in your strategy?
‘Meta gives us the opportunity to rethink the e-commerce experience. You can re-create the store digitally. Normally e-commerce is very flat, very dry, as we say in France. Now you can recreate this virtual experience whereby you’re walking down the supermarket aisle, click on a product and learn about the farmer who made this yogurt or this ham. You'll see how an avocado grew and who took care of it before delivering it into the store.’

What's the secret of marketing success in 2023?
‘Consumer, consumer, consumer. Clients, clients, clients. It's all about being very client-oriented but at the same time being very creative. You need to understand your client insights, and then, based on that, think ahead. It's a mix of understanding your competitors and differentiate yourself, because if you copycat everyone, you're never going to emerge. The key things are client understanding, knowing your competitors and differentiating yourself.’

Can you give us a recent example of how that worked out at Intermarché?
‘In advertising everybody was about price, price, price. Nobody would even see the difference between stores or brands. The minute we started talking about eating better and making better food accessible to everyone, through really emotional ads, all that changed. It was a game-changer.’

Was that a hard sell for you internally, this new way of doing advertising?
‘I came in when it had already started and continued this very beautiful adventure. But to be honest, we are challenged today because people are going back to rationality. And you can't be just rational because if everybody is on the same price level, then what's the big difference? You need to touch people in different ways. We're bombarded with ads and what's going to emerge is what touches you, what makes you laugh or cry. Why? Because emotion is linked directly to memory.’

Does the current crisis we're in, with the supply chain problems, the inflation, and the cost of living, spur creativity? Or does it dull it down to just pricing?
‘Everybody is going to talk about inflation and their prices. So, you're going to have to differentiate your message from your competitors. When everybody is claiming they’re cheaper than others, how can you say that in a different way so that people prefer you? Now, more than ever, you're going to need creativity.’

Is emotion the key differentiator between Intermarché and its competitors?
‘No, the key difference is that we have our own plants. No other retailer has those. Vertically, we control the whole chain. And the other key point is that we obsess about this whole sense-making. It's not just about eating; it's about eating well for a better health. This is our vision for the market and we want to carry it on. We improve our recipes but we also develop apps that help people choose products in their supermarket. We did a Yuka-like app in which you can filter. For instance, you scan for food made in France, or you can say you’re allergic to peanuts and it’s going to red-flag products to warn you.’

Are vegetarian and vegan becoming a thing? France has always been terrible for that.
‘It's growing. Our role is to educate people and help them choose the right food to eat better.’
Which accomplishment at Intermarché are you most proud of?
‘I think it’s changing all the recipes, because I feel I'm really helping our French customers to eat better. It's very satisfying to think that you're really improving a product that people eat every day. Whether it's the yogurt or the ham or all the products that we sell on our private label. We have definitely improved them and then they are way cheaper.’

What's your advice for the next CMO’s in line?
‘You need to be passionate about it. When I was 12 years old, I was fascinated about ads. I told my parents I want to do advertising. They said she's crazy because nobody did advertising in my family. So, you need to be passionate about the job. You need to love creativity because it's not a rational job. It is very rational in the KPI’s and tracing everything. But you need some spontaneity and some creativity to break through. What I love about this job is that it's about business, psychology and creativity. For me it's the best job.’
About Anne-Marie Gaultier
Anne-Marie Gaultier is the CMO at French supermarket chain Intermarché. After spending nearly 15 years at advertising agencies, Anne-Marie moved to become CMO and Chief Commercial Officer at iconic brands, including Club Med, Galeries Lafayette and Bally Shoes. Moreover, she was a marketing professor in Paris teaching mastering students.

About Intermarché
The French supermarket Intermarché is part of the large Les Mousquetaires retail group, which was founded in 1969. The chain includes different size stores, from large Intermarché Hyper stores (between 3,200 m2 and 6,000 m2) to the smaller Intermarché Contact convenience stores in rural areas. Les Mousquetaires runs Intermarché stores in Belgium, Lebanon (under the name of ‘metro’), Egypt, Portugal and Poland. Intermarché also offers a range of its own brands. Les Mousquetaires reported a 1.8% growth in revenue, to €35.28 billion in 2021.
Privacy statement
Powered by

Good to have you here!

CMOtalk uses cookies. We use them for keeping track of statistics, so we can serve a good website. By clicking 'continue', you are accepting our privacy statement.