Meeting the brief

The German consumer is looking for products that are better for them and the environment, and Irish exporters are stepping up

Article appeared in issue 5, 2021

It’s been a positive year for Irish exports to Germany, according to Gabriele Weiss, Germany Manager at Bord Bia (the Irish Food Board), with the three top sectors – dairy, beef, and prepared consumer foods (PCF) – enjoying strong performances. “The export value for dairy in 2020 was €418m; beef hit €133m and PCF was worth €109m, so they are large segments for Irish exporters, and I feel there is still potential for growth.”

These impressive numbers were driven, largely, by the retail channel. “The German consumer cooked a lot during foodservice and restaurant closures. This is a new trend in Germany, cooking more than in the past, looking for new recipes. A lot of fresh food such as beef was bought.”

It’s a trend, she says that Irish beef exporters should tap into. “People are valuing their health more than ever. They want to eat better quality food, and Irish products fit that requirement. Irish beef is high quality, sustainable and natural, that’s what the German consumer is looking for.”

Although the appetite for meat in Germany is slightly declining, it is still one of the top meat consumption countries globally and the appetite for beef has grown from 8.9kg in 2010 to 9.8kg in 2020 per capita.* “Here, barbecue is popular so all kind of steak cuts are gladly taken by the German consumer. Specialty cuts such as tomahawk, rib-eye and especially dry-aged products are further on the rise. This could be a good opportunity for Irish producers to tap into.”

Irish exporters can gain ground by offering premium cuts, she continues: “When it comes to high quality, the focus is on Irish beef. The big volumes will always be in standard cuts such as joints, roulades/top shells or roasts, so it’s important that Irish exporters offer those on a promotion basis as well as offering the premium cuts.”

But how can Irish exporters compete with the neighbourhood butcher when consumers are being urged to watch their carbon footprint? In Bord Bia’s Dietary Lifestyle Report from February 2021, 65% of German consumers said they are making more of an effort to be more aware of the environment around them. “Ireland is not local so there is the issue of transport to consider. However, it is an EU neighbour, and that’s what we are communicating and building upon.”

In the same report, 27% of consumers said that they were willing to pay more for sustainably produced food, and the Irish grass-fed message is a core part of Bord Bia’s communication. “It’s important that we boost the message of our outdoor grazing, that our beef herd spends over 220 days on average outside, as it’s becoming more important to the German consumer.”

Carving space

In the PCF category, the challenge comes from the level of competition in the marketplace. “It’s a big segment with a lot of categories. We have a lot of big brand names here including German players. It’s hard to compete against them.

“As an Irish exporter, transport and logistics mean the price is usually higher than local produce. In some segments such as healthy snacks or value-added meat there is potential because we can offer health benefits or attributes that the German consumer is looking for, such as organic, low sugar, natural ingredients, no processed ingredients. There is potential for Irish products to fill a gap here.”

A successful product, she says, needs to be a combination of good taste and healthy benefits, with sustainable credentials, and she points to two Irish brands that are meeting these needs: Glenisk’s no sugar yogurt is made using milk from grass-fed cows and has secured listing in Rewe, the second largest retailer in Europe. “The Folláin range of jams and relishes appeals to the German consumer because it’s so natural and low sugar. They are price sensitive, but they want value for money. They are willing to pay a higher price when they see and trust the quality.”

Gabriele points to opportunities within the sector that have been created by Brexit. “The more difficulties that arise importing UK products, the better the opportunity for Irish products to gain additional listings, particularly in the PCF category.”

Household size is an area that may not be immediately obvious to the Irish exporter. “We have a lot of single households in Germany, and small SKUs and individually packaged products offer an opportunity: convenience products that are easy to cook, require little handling and are low waste, are appealing.”

Just one more

There is room for new players in the alcohol category. “Irish whiskey is a very attractive product in the German market. Scottish and American whiskies are well established but Irish whiskey is still a very small player and I think that, as the whiskey category is growing, there is a lot of potential here.

“For example, Jameson and Teelings enjoy good volumes in the market but there is still room for middle price brands. Here, there is the higher income consumer who is more serious about their whiskey and is looking for a super-premium product. This is small volume but a growth area. But an Irish whiskey exporter needs to offer both price ranges – an entry level, ‘foot in the door’ product, as well as a premium offering that could tempt a buyer. It’s about taste and price.”

Armed with information

Verifiable data around food is of increasing importance to the consumer and adopting established nutritional labelling and animal welfare initiatives could offer Irish exporters a competitive advantage. Nutri-Score is a nutrition label that has been rolled out in a number of European countries including France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland. “Nutri-Score is a consumer label that refers to the nutritional value of your products. It ranges from A, high in vitamins, low sugar or salt for example, to D. Consumers are looking for it and more than 200 companies, such as Nestlé, are already including it on their products.”

Haltungsform is a German animal welfare initiative established by retailers and farmers. It is already in place for pork, chicken and poultry products and is coming into effect for beef and dairy products, too. “It’s a label that uses the range one to four and indicates the treatment of the animals involved in the product. Four is the highest mark, indicating a kind of ‘premium’ status and is linked to a higher space per animal in the shed, outdoor grazing share with min 120 days per annum, and other criteria, while the lowest level, one, is the minimum criteria which has to be fulfilled. With 220 days outdoor grazing on average per year, Irish beef should definitely be in the highest level.”

Retailer Aldi has embraced the initiative and indicated that by the end of 2030, it will only sell meat products with Haltungsform level three or four. “They won’t accept any supplier below this level after 2030. There is pressure on the other retailers to follow and it also puts pressure on German beef and dairy farmers. It is a challenge for Irish producers too to fulfil all criteria but, considering the market size of Germany, this could also be seen as an opportunity. If we are aware of it, we can at least work towards it.”

* Source: BZL, Bundesinformationszentrum Landwirtschaft


Pat O’Farrell, commercial manager with Folláin tells us why its range of preserves appeals to the German consumer.

“Folláin is the market-leading brand of fruit preserves in the Irish market, and its success is attributed to our range of ‘Nothing But Fruit’ preserves which contain no added sugar. The name Folláin is a word from the Irish language that translates as ‘wholesome’ and this range is created using only natural ingredients. These products don’t have any artificial ingredients or preserving agents which is a significant point of difference when compared to competing products.

Folláin launched into the German market in late 2019 with five ‘Nothing But Fruit’ preserves. The Folláin ‘Nichts als Früchte’ range is currently listed in Tegut stores in Germany and has been very well received by German consumers. The artistically designed packaging and the simple message on every jar – ‘Ohne Zuckerzusatz’ or ‘No Added Sugar,’ are very important in communicating to German consumers that they are purchasing something very special; a delicious and flavoursome fruit preserve that contains no refined sugars, and just so happens to be healthy and good for you!”

With organic ingredients and climate neutral packaging, Glenisk’s latest export is meeting new needs, as Vincent Cleary, managing director, explains.

Bó Shona yogurt is Glenisk’s latest launch into the German market and, so far, has listings in Rewe in the Nordrhein-Westfalen region. “Grass-fed dairy products are becoming increasingly popular globally, but uniquely, Bó Shona is made from 100% grass-fed milk. The cows graze on organic pasture only during the season – feed, grain and concentrates form no part of their diet. Thanks to Ireland’s temperate climate, the grazing season can be up to 300 days each year. Because the milk is organic, the pasture is free from artificial fertilisers and synthetic pesticides. The 100% Grass-Fed Organic standard is certified by the Irish Organic Association.

Bó Shona comes in a 500g climate-neutral pot, is recyclable and is made from entirely renewable materials. Bó Shona works with ClimatePartner to support reforestation projects across Germany. Our hope is that Bó Shona will appeal to German consumers for its flavour, nutritional qualities, animal welfare standards and ethical environmental practices.”