The organic food store Bittersweet in the city of Hannover is going out of business. Since 1983, it has sold everything from free-range eggs to organic pomegranates to its loyal base of local customers. But just before Christmas, it cleared the shelves.
“Dear customers. Unfortunately after 34 years we will be closing our doors,” says a sign that has been posted on the shelves by Bittersweet’s owner, Sahak Hakobyan. The business is insolvent. And Bittersweet is not the only one. Recently one of Hakobyan’s competitors, a few blocks down the road, also closed its doors.
Interestingly enough though, the shuttered stores are just one side of the current situation with environmentally-conscious edibles in Germany. The other, more upbeat side will be seen in February, when the ecological food retail sector will gather at its biggest annual trade fair, the Biofach; more than 2,500 exhibitors and 48,000 visitors will converge on the city of Nuremberg. “Building an Organic Future” is the 2017 motto. And for many, that future is very bright indeed. In 2016, the organic food market in Germany grew to €9 billion, around $9.61 billion, the best year on record. A decade ago, it was just €2.9 billion.
Because Germany is going through what locals call a bio-boom – that is, an unprecedented organic boom – as sales of organic food and products soar. But underlying the healthy numbers is a rapidly changing, and ruthlessly competitive retail landscape.