More than two thirds of French consumers expect their buying power to fall over the next few years, and spend on food dropped by 30 per cent last year alone, according a survey of 1,000 consumers by respected French magazine, LSA. The news threatens to dash hope among food and drink firms that France may be emerging from a depressed consumer climate, and highlights the upcoming presidential election as a pivotal moment. Several firms from dairy, water and biscuit group Danone to the brewer Scottish & Newcastle (S&N) have specifically singled out France as a problem country. S&N said last November that a "depressed consumer environment" across Western Europe as a whole dented its third quarter volumes. France is one of the group's largest Western European markets, largely due to the Kronenbourg brand. Unemployment has hovered at around 10 per cent in France for the last three years, and is estimated to be double that among young people. Up to one in four were also jobless in some southern areas, figures show. Faced with a widescale French malaise, food and drink companies have turned to innovation to spike growth, such as Danone's functional tea drink under the Taillefine brand, but with limited success so far. Now, this year's presidential elections in France could be crucial in building new momentum in the country, according to the LSA survey. It found three quarters of respondents believed their buying power would be affected by who won the election, and more than 60 per cent said politicians must play a role in improving buying power. So far, it is centre-right candidate and current presidential favourite, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is most likely to improve consumer confidence, according to a quarter of those surveyed. Sarkozy, who is considered an admirer of New Labour in the UK, has promised to cut taxes and make the labour market more flexible.