Germany, by far the biggest market in the European Union, shows good prospects for U.S. food products.
THIS REPORT CONTAINS ASSESSMENTS OF COMMODITY AND TRADE ISSUES MADE BY
USDA STAFF AND NOT NECESSARILY STATEMENTS OF OFFICIAL U.S. GOVERNMENT
Required Report - public distribution
GAIN Report Number: GM12021
The German Food Retail Market
Leif Erik Rehder
Germany, by far the biggest market in the European Union, shows good prospects for U.S. food products such
as tree nuts, wine, processed fruits and vegetables and fruit juices. The food retail sector is fairly consolidated
with discounters dominating the market. Food marketing trends in Germany show an increase in demand for
convenience, sustainable, health, luxury, private label, and innovative food products.
Section I. Market Summary
Germany has 82 million of the world’s wealthiest consumers and it is by far the biggest market for food and
beverages in the European Union. According to Euromonitor International, grocery retailing reached sales of
€178.5 billion in 2011 ($218 billion). Part of demand is met with domestic products; however, overall Germany
is a net importer of all major categories of food products.
Value of imports from Consumer Oriented and Fishery Products, past 5 years billion USD
2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Consumer Oriented Products 51.1 57.2 51.5 52.5 58.1
Imports from the U.S. 0.5 0.6 0.6 0.6 0.8
Fishery products 4.2 4.5 4.4 4.5 5.1
Imports from the U.S. 0.3 0.3 0.2 0.2 0.3
The German food market is heavily dependent on imports to meet it consumer demands. Last year, Germany
imported $ 58.1 billion of consumer-oriented products. By value, about one fourth came from the Netherlands
and France and Italy each had about 10 percent of the import market. After Switzerland and Turkey, the U.S. is
the third largest non EU-supplier of consumer-oriented products. In 2011, U.S. exports totaled $824 million, led
by tree nuts, wine, food preparations, and beef.
The global financial crisis has not affected Germany as severely as other countries but economic uncertainty has
led to a decrease in consumer spending on food and non-alcoholic beverages. In 2008, the German economy
slowed and by 2009 Germany was in a recession. In 2010 and 2011 the economy rebounded and Germany
performed better than most Western European countries. In 2011, unemployment fell to the lowest level in
over a decade. Consumer spending recovered in line with the economy. However, continued fiscal
consolidation and Germany’s dependence on exports could slow the pace of growth in consumer expenditures
Consumer Expenditures Germany in Euro Per Capita – Value at Current Prices
Consumer Expenditures 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012*
Consumer Expenditures 15,989 16,040 16,508 17,215 17,685
Consumer Expenditures on food and non-alcoholic 1,815 1,788 1,817 1,911 1,927
Consumer Expenditures on alcoholic beverages and 515 517 519 527 535
Source: Euromonitor, 2012* estimate
Consolidation, market saturation, strong competition and low prices are key characteristics of the German retail
food market. The sector is dominated by five large retail companies. The major chains face slim margins due to
fierce competition in the sector. However, in recent years, there has also been a trend in consumer preference
toward smaller grocery formats, including convenience stores, small grocery retailers and independents.
German Food Retail Sector
Source: Euromonitor International
Number of retail outlets in Germany
Type of Outlet 2007 2010 2013f
Supermarkets/Hypermarkets 15.757 15.779 15.521
Independent Food Stores 22.916 21.558 20.117
Convenience Stores 14.997 15.427 15.923
Discounters 14.525 15.086 16.058
Traditional Markets 3.315 3.315 n.a.
Source: Euromonitor International
In terms of sales, discounters are well established and dominate food retailing in Germany. After years of
growth, the discounters face limits to growth that can be achieved through the opening of new stores.
However, in 2010 and 2011 supermarkets performed better than other retail channels. They distinguish
themselves from other grocery channels by offering high-quality products located close to city centers. Sales in
Hypermarkets stagnated due to competition by discounters. In response, Hypermarkets expanded their own
private label products.
Due to the sheer number of stores, the importance of independents is relatively high. With their combination
of packaged, branded products and local, fresh products, independent food stores perform well, although their
numbers are slowly declining.
Convenience stores take advantage of a trend towards ready-to-eat products and are slowly increasing sales
following the crisis. An ongoing development within this channel is a decrease in independent stores but an
increase in chain stores.
Traditional open markets are increasingly taking advantage of the popularity of locally produced fresh foods.
Weekly markets can be found in nearly all German cities, though they play only a minor role in terms of sales.
Sales in Grocery Retailing by Category, billions of Euro
Type of Outlet 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
Discounters 59.1 61.3 61.3 61.7 62.1
Supermarkets 40.4 45.6 47.1 48.9 49.2
Hypermarkets 33.1 34.1 34.6 34.6 33.9
Traditional Grocery Retailers 24.9 23.9 23.7 23.7 24.0
Convenience Stores* 8.8 9.4 9.3 9.3 9.4
Source: Euromonitor International, FAS,
* Convenience Stores include kiosks, gas stations, small grocery shops, etc. with extended opening hours, a selling area of
less than 400sq meters, and offering take-away food.
Wide Range of Private Label Products
In Germany, the market share for private label products has steadily increased to 40 percent in recent years.
Focused on price, private label food products contributed to the initial success of German discounters.
However, that has changed since nowadays there is not only price competitive standard private label products,
but also more expensive high quality premium products Consumers are discovering the high value for money
that private label brands are offering and how they can be an actual alternative to established brands. Private
label market share is expected to increase further, driven by the increase profitability it is giving to retailers.
Private label leaders are supermarket chains like Edeka and Rewe. Discounters have played less of a role in the
development of private label sales.
Trends in food retailing
Basic expectations for German consumers are for high quality food products. However they are very price-
sensitive. Germans are devoted to their discounters and the country has, globally, the highest share of
discounters in food retailing. This is one reason why margins at the retail level are so thin.
A key demographic factor in the future will be Germany’s aging population, which is already ranked among the
oldest in the world. Demand for convenience, health, wellness, and luxury foods, will continue to affect food
retailing. Another trend is that German consumers take great pride in being environmental or, ‘green.’ A
segment of the market has demonstrated they are willing to pay more for “sustainable,” “locally sourced,” “free
range,” “natural,” “organic,” “fair trade” and “carbon neutral” products.
For sustainability in particular, major retailers and producers are increasingly requiring private certification.
Unilever, for example, has pledged purchase 100% ‘sustainable’ products by 2020 and is already making strong
progress toward that goal. For U.S. products, there is room to use high health, safety and environmental
standards governing production as a competitive advantage but is it important that suppliers ‘have a story to
tell’ and are prepared to consider private sustainability certification.
Advantages and Challenges of the German Food Retail Market
Sector Strength & Market Opportunities Sector Weaknesses & Competitive Threats
Germany is the biggest market in Europe with one of German consumers demand quality and low
the highest income levels in the world prices
Many German consumers are uninformed about the No unified U.S. sustainability message in the
details of sustainability and there is yet room to define German market.
a U.S. sustainability message
Germany is among the largest food importing nations in EU import regulation and tariffs. EU gives
the world preferential access to products from EU countries
Opportunities for healthy food products not sufficiently Very competitive market with low growth in
available on the local European market retail sales
Equivalency agreement on Organics offers ample Listing fees paid to retailers and money spend on
opportunities creating brand awareness hamper the
introduction of new U.S. brands
Germany has many, well established importers. Margins on food at retail level are very thin
Distribution system is well developed
U.S. style is popular, especially among the younger Retailers rarely import products into Germany on
generation their own
The size of the EU import quota for beef is rising to The quota only applies to beef from animals not
48,200 tons and Germany is the largest EU market. treated with growth-promoting hormones’
Good reputation for U.S. food like dried fruits, seafood,
Large non-German population and German’s inclination
to travel abroad help fuel demand for foreign products
Source: FAS Berlin
Section II. Road Map for Market Entry
The German market offers good opportunities for U.S. exporters of consumer-oriented agricultural products.
However there are a number of challenges U.S. exporters must meet before exporting to the German market.
Success in introducing food products depends mainly on knowledge of the market and personal contact. There
is also little room for compliance errors with stringent EU and German rules. The U.S. supplier should analyze
German/EU food laws, packaging and labeling requirements, business practices and trade-related laws and
tariffs, potential importers and the distribution system. The Office of Agricultural Affairs (OAA) offers guidelines
on business practices and import regulations. The FAS’s Foreign Buyers List, for example, gives important
information on German buyers of food, fish, and seafood products.
Purchasing by German food retailers is fragmented and competitive. Few German retailers import products
directly from other countries, except for items that they purchase in large quantities. Most food retailers would
rather buy from central buyers/distributors importing food and beverages. In general, these wholesalers have
specialized in products or product groups and some are even experts in food products from a specific country of
origin. Thus, specialized importers have an in-depth knowledge of importing requirements, such as product
certification, labeling and packaging. They also typically handle shipping, customs clearance, warehousing and
distribution of products within the country.
Source: FAS Berlin
Participating in German food trade shows is a proven way to find the right distributor and facilitates the direct
contact with German food brokers, importers, and wholesalers. Trade shows like ANUGA, Green Week or the
BioFach show in Germany enjoy an exceptional reputation within the global food industry and these shows
outreach is, in many cases, global. For a current listing of German food trade shows, please see: www.usda-
Direct sales to Germany’s leading retail companies is very difficult; however, it can be a desirable product-entry
approach for a U.S. supplier. Due to their wide range of distribution, central buyers are generally flooded with
offers from competing suppliers and they are usually not interested in taking on added responsibility of
importing products directly. This is especially the case for new-to-market products, which may not comply with
German/EU import requirements, food laws and packaging and labeling requirements. Retail buyers may only
be interested in importing products directly if they are unique, possess some specific attribute, or offer
significant advantages in terms of quality, price, or financial promotional support.
Each of Germany’s leading retail groups has a different business structure, purchasing, and distribution system.
Many of the leading retailers have multiple retail chains, often with various types of retail formats such as large
hypermarkets, discount and small neighborhood stores, or perhaps beverage and/or delicatessen outlets. Large
retailers’ purchasing departments may also be divided by retail format and, sometimes, by region of the
New products on the German market may require up to 12 to 18 months of testing to gain market acceptance.
Listing fees, equivalent to several thousand dollars or more per product are common and do not ensure shelf
space if a profitable turnover is not achieved rather quickly. The exception may be a retailer's desire to
maintain a competitive edge by keeping a full range of products.
Profiles of Leading Retail Companies
Retailer Name and Outlet Type Ownership FoodSales No. of Outlets Locations
Edeka (Supermarkets) 31,552 7,908 nationwide
Netto (Discounter) 11,157 4,000 nationwide
Rewe (Supermarkets) 15,485 2,994 nationwide
Penny (Discounter) 6,824 2,400 nationwide
Real (Hypermarkets) 6,764 331 nationwide
Metro (Cash & Carry) 4,358 123 nationwide
Lidl (Discounter) 12,956 3,200 nationwide
Kaufland (Hypermarkets) 10,280 563 nationwide
Aldi Süd (Discounter) 11,234 <1,800 Southern Germany
Aldi Nord (Discounter) 9,020 <2,500 Northern Germany
Lekkerland (Wholesaler) Local 7,601 19 nationwide
Kaisers (Supermarket) Local 2,050 710 nationwide
Source: Euromonitor, Lebensmittelzeitung
Section III. Competition
Germany is increasingly dependent on supplies of bulk and intermediate products (like seafood, fruit juices,
swine, fresh produce, nuts, etc) from other EU member states and third countries. Germany also depends
especially on Southern Hemisphere countries for year-round supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables. Another
reason why importers and food distributors turn to foreign markets is the search for unique products. U.S. beef,
fruits, nuts, sweet potatoes, and a full range of specialty food products have gained popularity over the years.
Competition for U.S. exports
Product category Main suppliers in Strengths of Key supply Advantages and Disadvantages of
Total Import in million percentage, 2011 countries Local Suppliers
PG 30 Breakfast Cereals 1. France 16.3 Distance, availability and Developed processed food industry
2. Netherlands 14.9 regional products
256 3. United Kingdom
16. U.S. 0.2
PG 31 Snack Foods 1. Netherlands Distance, availability and Developed confectionary industry
23.3 regional products
3,258 2. Belgium
HS 02: Meat 1. Netherlands Distance and availability Focus on dairy production instead
8,094 22.5 of beef production. Genetics need
2. Belgium improvement
HS 03: Fish and 1. Poland 1,2: Distance and Tradition in seafood trading and
Crustaceans 14.3 availaibility processing, fish is popular
4,294 2. Denmark 3: Price/quality ratio
HS 04: Dairy Produce; 1. Netherlands Proximity Great tradition of milk and milk
Birds Eggs and Natural 31.3 based products
Honey 2. France
3. Austria 7.7
HS 07: Edible vegetables 1. Netherlands 1: Proximity Products not sufficiently available
6,444 38.1 2,3: Tradition, different on local market
2. Spain climate/ supply/ taste/
3. Italy 9.0
HS 08: Edible Fruits and 1. Spain 1,3: Tradition, different Products not sufficiently available
Nuts 19.4 climate/ supply/ taste/ on local market
9,055 2. Netherlands varieties
18.7 2: Proximity
HS 09: Coffee, Tea, Mate 1. Brazil Trading tradition No domestic availability, Re-export
and Spices 29.2
6,401 2. Vietnam
HS 16: Edible 1. Netherlands 1,3: Proximity Not sufficiently domestically
Preparations of Meat 15.4 3: Price/quality ratio available
Fish, Crustaceans 2. Brazil
3. Poland 10.4
30. U.S. 0.2
HS 19: Preparation off 1. Italy Proximity and re-export Not sufficiently domestically
Cereals, Flour, Starch or 30.6 available
Milk 2. France
HS 20: Preparations of 1. Netherlands Proximity Not sufficiently domestically
Vegetables, fruits, Nuts 22.1 available
5,689 2. Italy
3. Belgium 9.0
19. U.S. 0.6
HS 21: Miscellaneous 1. Netherlands Proximity and re-export Not sufficiently domestically
Edible Preparations 18.3 available
3,034 2. France
HS 22: Beverages, Spirits, 1. Italy Excellent regional Not sufficiently domestically
Wine and Vinegar 20.7 products available
8,679 2. France
Section IV. Best Product Prospects
Product Category Total German U.S. Import Market attractiveness for USA
German Imports Growth in
Imports from the 5 years
2011 in U.S. in (2007-
millions of millions of 2011)*
U.S. $ U.S. $
Fish and Seafood 5,146 257 -1% The German market offers lucrative
Products opportunities for fish and seafood products.
Fish consumption is growing as consumers
associate fishery products with a healthy diet.
Best prospects for U.S. and seafood exports
are salmon, (lobster), shrimps, crabs, caviar
substitutes, catfish and scallops
Tree Nuts 1,539 298 14% The United States is the biggest supplier of
tree nuts to Germany. Most tree nuts are
used as ingredients by the food processing
sector. Almonds are the most important
commodity within this category. Further
products with good sales potential include
hazelnuts, pistachios, pecans and walnuts.
Wine and Beer 3,902 98 42% Germany has a high share of domestic wine
production. However, good prospects exists
for “new world wines” including those from
Pet Foods (Dog and 861 1.6 -22% Sales of cat food have the biggest market
Cat) share. U.S. exports are declining but potential
exists for premium pet food.
Processed Fruits and 3,295 33 11% German imports are slowly increasing. Those
Vegetables products are mostly used as ingredients by
the food processing sector for the production
of pastries and cereals. Dried fruits and
prepared nuts are also popular as a snack.
Snack Foods (Excl. 3,257 6.5 12% German demand for healthy, organic,
Nuts) innovative, and exotic snacks continues to
Red Meats 5,541 68 2439% Good opportunities for U.S. high quality beef
Fresh/Chilled/Frozen produced without growth promotants. The
EU quota size and administration system have
recently see changes.
www.gtis.com; * Due to the global financial crisis most import volumes peaked in 2008. U.S. imports have
recovered slowly. Some products like pet foods and fish still haven’t reached pre-crisis levels.
Category A: Products Present in the Market That Have Good Sales Potential
Processed fruits and vegetables
Health food, organic food, sustainable food products
Category B: Products Not Present In Significant Quantities but Which Have Good Sales Potential
High quality beef (produced without promotants)
Cranberries and cranberry products
Seafood and seafood products
Game and exotic meat
Innovative sauces, condiments and confectionary products
Products featuring ‘sustainable’ or other social issue-based marketing theme
Category C: Products Not Present Because They Face Significant Barriers
Poultry (non-tariff barrier)
Processed food with GMO ingredients, bleached flour
Section V. Post Contact and Further Information
Internet home pages of potential interest to U.S. food and beverage exporters are listed below:
U.S. Mission to the European Union www.fas.usda.gov/posthome/useu/usda.html
European Importer Directory www.american-foods.org
If you have questions or comments regarding this report, or need assistance exporting to Germany, please
contact the U.S. Agricultural Affairs Office in Berlin at the following address:
Foreign Agricultural Service
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Embassy of United States of America
14195 Berlin, Germany
Tel: (49) (30) 8305 – 1150
Fax: (49) (30) 8431 – 1935
Home Page: www.usda-mideurope.com
Please view our Home Page for more information on exporting U.S. food and beverage products to Germany,
including market and product “briefs” available on specific topics of interest to U.S. exporters.
Importer listings are available from the Agricultural Affairs Office for use by U.S. exporters of U.S. food and
Recent reports of interests to U.S. exporters interested in the German Market include:
Report Title Report Number Month Report was written
Exporter Guide GM 1019 August 2011
FAIRS Report GM 12006 January 2012
Biotech Report GM 12012 May 2012
Key German Contacts for the Food Retail Trade
Note: While it is impractical to provide a complete list, this partial list is for your information only with the
understanding that no discrimination is intended and no guarantee of reliability implied.
Aldi Einkauf GmbH & Co. oHG - Sued
45476 Muelheim/Ruhr, Germany
Fax: (0049) 1803 252722
Aldi Einkauf GmbH & Co. oHG - Nord
45307 Essen, Germany
Fax: (49-201) 859 33 19
EDEKA Zentrale AG & Co. KG
22297 Hamburg, Germany
Tel: (49-40) 63 770
Fax: (49-40) 63 77 22 31
EHI Retail Institute e.V.
50672 Koeln, Germany
Tel: (49-221) 57 99 30
Fax: (49-221) 57 99 345
Organization representing the retail sectors; German counterpart of FMI.
Globus SB Warenhaus Geschaeftsfuehrungs-GmbH
Leipziger Strasse 8
66606 St. Wendel, Germany
Tel: (49-6851) 90 90
Fax: (49-6851) 90 96 00
KaDeWe Kaufhaus des Westens
10789 Berlin, Germany
Tel: (49-30) 212 10
Fax: (49-30) 211 01 90
KaDeWe is the flagship of the Karstadt department store chain. It is comparable to Harrods in London and
claims to have the biggest food & delicatessen department in Europe.
Lekkerland GmbH & Co. KG
50226 Frechen, Germany
Tel: (49-2234) 182 10
Fax: (49-2234) 182 14 45
Lidl Stiftung & Co. KG
74167 Neckarsulm, Germany
Tel: (49-7132) 94-2000
Markant Handels und Service GmbH
77656 Offenburg, Germany
Tel: (49-781) 61 60
Fax: (49-781) 616166
MGB METRO Group Buying GmbH
40235 Duesseldorf, Germany
Tel: (49-211) 68860
Fax: (49-211) 6886-2000
Foreign Trade Dept. - HWA -
50668 Koeln, Germany
Tel: (49-221) 1490
Fax: (49-221) 149 93 71
45478 Muelheim/Ruhr, Germany
Tel: (49-208) 580 60
Fax: (49-208) 5806-6401