1963: a groundbreaking year for the food sector ahead of the debut of SIAL Paris a year later

March 8, 2024

When the first ever SIAL Paris was held in 1964, it represented a landmark event for the food industry, with the SIAL name now known widely thanks to shows held across the world.

Appropriately enough, the launch of SIAL Paris came hot on the heels of a number of other major happenings in the food sector in France and globally.

In France, 1963 saw the debut of the first hypermarket when Carrefour opened an outlet in Sainte-Geneviève-des-Bois on June 15.

This came just four years after Carrefour was formed and only three years after the company inaugurated its first supermarket.

What distinguished the hypermarket in 1963 – and what continues to define it – is the way it sells a much broader range of products than groceries, typically extending its offering into the likes of clothes and electrical goods.

Carrefour states that its 1963 hypermarket “offered a vast range of products at low prices” and boasted a self-service sales area of 2,500 square metres, plus 400 parking spaces.

1963: a groundbreaking year for the food sector ahead of the debut of SIAL Paris a year later

Image credit: Carrefour Group

Some customers who went into the hypermarket soon after its 1963 opening were hooked from the outset, while press reports indicate that others were happy to try out the new state-of-the-art facility before returning to the local family-run food stores they were familiar with.

While not everyone was won over to begin with, the French newspaper L’Express notes that the hypermarket is now an essential part of the shopping scene in France and has become a symbol of the consumer society.

Indeed Carrefour happily acknowledges that its inspiration for its first hypermarket came from a country often seen as the last word in consumerism – the United States.

While that first Carrefour hypermarket was impressive, it is dwarfed by those of today, some of which are around 10 times as large in terms of floor area.

While they may not always use the term hypermarket, other countries have adopted the hypermarket model with gusto.

In the United Kingdom, for example, the big supermarket operators such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and Morrisons all have many vast outlets that sell everything from clothes to camping equipment and kitchen appliances – much more than just food and drink.

1963: a groundbreaking year for the food sector ahead of the debut of SIAL Paris a year later

Image credit: Shashank Verma / Unsplash

There was another development in 1963 that, while it may not have captured the public imagination in quite the same way as the launch of the hypermarket did, was nevertheless just as important.

That year the Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) was set up by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation.

The aim of this groundbreaking code was, the WHO reports today, to develop harmonised international food standards and codes of practice.

The reasons for doing this were numerous, but a key motivation was concern among consumers about the safety of imported products.

In addition to protecting consumer health, the guidelines aimed to ensure trade practices in the sector were fair, according to the WHO.

“It also promotes coordination of all food standards work undertaken by international governmental and non-governmental organisations,” the WHO states.

Foods being sent internationally must adhere to Codex standards since the World Trade Organisation was set up and the Agreement on Sanitary and Phytosanitary Standards was made. Nearly 190 countries are now required to adhere to Codex standards.

“Since 1963, Codex has developed hundreds of internationally recognized standards, guidelines and codes of practice,” the FAO states in an online briefing document.

“It has defined thousands of permitted levels of additives, contaminants and chemical residues in food. The end goal: ensure food is safe for everyone, everywhere.”

Just as SIAL Paris has been keen to highlight what it has achieved since it was inaugurated six decades ago, so Codex organised many events to mark the 60th anniversary of its launch in 1963

The aim of these, the FAO said, was to highlight Codex’s “essential role” in safeguarding consumer health and ensuring that the food trade operates fairly.

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