Alexa
  • Directory of Taiwan

German taste for budget food worries producers

German taste for budget food worries producers

The French have a love affair with food, for the Italians a good meal is part of their cultural DNA, and even the British are increasingly particular about what passes their stiff upper lips.
But for Germans, food is fuel. They eat to live, not the other way around, with one in two shoppers getting two-thirds of what they eat by stuffing their trolleys in no-frills discounters, much more than many other Europeans.
The flip side of this phenomenon is that Germany's food industry is being squeezed hard, and if comments at the world's largest agricultural fair in Berlin are anything to go by, many are up to their necks.
At the "Gruene Woche" ("Green Week") fair in Berlin, which attracts 400,000 visitors annually and which wrapped up yesterday, the talk was of a battle for survival as the discounters wage an aggressive price war.
The five main discount supermarkets (Aldi, Lidl, Netto, Penny and Norma), which together account for 70 percent of Germany's retail food market, have launched 13 price-cutting bonanzas across their range since January 2009.
The head of the federation representing the German food industry, Peter Feller, said his members were suffering from the enormous purchasing power that the no-frills sector is able to bring to bear.
"99.9 percent of our members are small and medium-sized businesses. They are the ones who pick up the bill," he told reporter on the sidelines of the fair.
And the trend towards stack-em-high, sell-em-cheap outlets appears to be a particularly German trait. Consumers in Germany spend a mere 11 percent of their household budget on food, one of the lowest percentages in Europe.
A 2008 study by consumer research group GFK found that 98 percent of Germans shop at least once a week at a budget supermarket.
People are not so spendthrift when it comes to other ways to spend their money, as seen in the incongruous sight of the car parks of discount supermarkets being chock-a-block with expensive cars.
"Germany is the only country where you wear Armani and go to Aldi," the saying goes.
"We are worried because German consumers do not seem to understand that if they want to eat well, they need to pay a decent price," said Feller.
Michael Lohse, president of the German Farmers' Federation, said: "The French and the Italians have a relationship with food that is all about enjoyment, freshness and loyalty to local products."
"In Germany, people go straight for the low-cost option. It's completely the wrong way of doing things," he complained.
"Then we encourage our children to do the same and wonder why they are not eating healthily," he added.
But the price war between the discounters continues unabated, with several shops slashing the price for breakfast cereals on the eve of the Gruene Woche - which Lohse described as a "provocation."
Feller said the "downward spiral" of more vicious price wars leading to further pain for producers was not about to end any time soon.