With a population of 82 m the German Food & Drinks sector is one of the largest in Europe. The underlying cultural mix and mobility of the general public have meant that we have seen an increased interest in exotic products and foreign fare. Other sectors that have grown especially are: a) frozen and ready-to-eat meals; b) functional and healthy foods; c) organic produce.
The Federation of German Food and Drink Industries (BVE) confirms a growth of 3% in 2012 when, in the majority of European countries, it was in decline and forecasts a similar increase for 2013 in the three sectors mentioned earlier.
The German food sector is dominated by 5 large retailers who account for some 75% of the market according to statistics published in 2011. The “low cost” supermarkets (Lidl, Aldi, etc) which offer a reduced assortment, normally under their own brands, have maintained their market share at 41% with some of them appearing amongst the “Big Five”.
Very few German retailers go direct to foreign markets. They prefer to operate through central buying groups or distributors that specialise in importing food and beverages. As a rule of thumb, these distributors focus on specific product and/or category of food and beverages. There are some that even concentrate on importing from a particular country or region.
All these distributors have an in-depth knowledge of customs procedures, sanitary and food certificate requirements, and standards for packing and labelling. This latter is a very important aspect when approaching the German market. As part of their services, these distributors handle customs formalities, transport, stocking and national redistribution of the goods. Hence the importance for European exporters to work closely with a local partner who can placed the product in the right market niche and promote them effectively on the German market.
As we have said, the majority of retailers use the services of specialist distributors or wholesalers for their supplies. However, some large organisations may contact overseas suppliers directly, but will then operate with their preferred company when it comes to organising import, logistics and distribution in Germany, especially in the case of small suppliers.
Trade-specific shows and exhibitions are of especial interest to exporters of food and beverages. Taking part in foods fairs is a good way of contacting the right distributor for their product. As far as Germany is concerned, the most experts coincide that ANUGA; the Green Week (Internationale Grüne Woche Berlin) and Biofach are ideal for establishing personal contacts with German importers, wholesalers and distributors.