The 2017cutlery market in France
An appropriate response to fierce competition
Approximately 30 years ago, the world-renowned French cutlery industry - which is known for its quality production - was confronted with fierce competition from Asian countries.
The French market was flooded with a sudden irruption of manufacturers lacking in scruples who produced poorly made knives, which were sold at highly competitive prices. This battle is still being waged, however, now the French manufacturers have the upper hand.
By choosing to manufacture in innovative ways the French manufacturers continued to make high-quality cutlery articles, while updating their production methods. Through these efforts, French cutlers were able to differentiate their products from Asian ones by offering consumers products of an incomparable quality at reasonable prices.
Over time, consumers saw the difference in quality offered by French and Asian knife manufacturers and were prepared to invest more money on robust kitchen knives with extraordinary blades that would last longer.
An almost forgotten struggle
After several very difficult years marked by a decrease in production within the French cutlery industry, the French knife market seems to be rebounding. Between 1980 and 2014, before this rebound, the number of employees fell from 3,000 to 1,350 individuals (excluding subcontracting and trade). Jacques Raynaud, President of the French Cutlery Federation stated, "The crisis has passed, I am less pessimistic for the future, because the companies that remain true to the demand of the market."
This revival in the French cutlery industry is due to the fact that professionals have changed their strategy, resisting competition from manufacturers producing poor-quality items. "A significant part of the Thiers companies have shifted to producing low-end products to creating middle and high-end knives," remarked Jacques Raynaud.
French-Made cutlery is on the mend
According to statistics collected in 2014, 176 companies and artisans are currently working in the French cutlery sector, producing a total turnover of 180 million Euros. Many small firms, often specialized in manufacturing pocketknives, regional knives and knives hand- crafted by artisans are aided and guided by larger companies and specialists such as Tarrerias-Bonjean.
Thiers, the knife manufacturing capital of France, is a town located in Auvergne. Thiers is home to approximately 60% of France’s cutlery companies, ranked higher than Laguiole another famous knife manufacturing city, Aveyron (12%) and several other small knife manufacturing regions, including Haute-Marne, Savoie and Dordogne.
Between 1997 and 2017, the number of knife manufacturing companies has fallen from 134 to 108 in the famous Puy-de-Dôme department in France. This decrease in the number of businesses seems to have stopped. Cutlery companies based in Thiers create approximately 1,000 employment opportunities.
Companies in Thiers opt for high-end knives
How did the French cutlery industry in Thiers manage to cope with this difficult situation? By deciding to create high-quality knives!
It is true that creating high-quality cutlery has always been at the center of these companies’ manufacturing philosophies, especially when it comes to selecting robust steels, the thermal treatment process they undergo, their design and ergonomic features, among countless other carefully crafted features.
We would like to cite two examples, which illustrate these features perfectly.
The Thiers spirit
Since 2006, the association Esprit de Thiers® has brought together cutlers who meet very selective standards. They design a wide range of high-end knives according to several quality and design criteria. This association has been incredibly successful and its initiative is a perfect example of how France avoided competition from Asian knife manufacturers by bringing together successful French cutlers and pushing them to create more high-end cutlery.
A member of the association, Claude Dorzome stated: "We have invested heavily in keeping all of the manufacturing steps in house and in acquiring computer operated machines.
An ultra-sharp high-end knife by TB
This knife was launched in 2010. Creating this revolutionary high-end kitchen knife required 5 years of research and development. Tarrerias-Bonjean’s teams managed to develop an exceptional tool: a layer of Titanium carbide is fused onto the blade’s steel cutting edge using a laser beam.
The Evercut® manufacturing process is patented and this futuristic kitchen knife was awarded several prizes, including the Innovation Award for Cooking in 2010 and the European Consumers award in 2011.