German Groceries

The Organic Retail Revolution

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The German market for organic foodstuffs is booming. But this has not necessarily been a positive for the smaller originators of the trend in organic eating because most of the retailing is being done by mainstream supermarkets and through a small number of organic-only chains.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • The market for organic food in Germany has gone from €2.9 billion in 2006, to around €9 billion last year.
    • Over 50 percent of all organic food sales now happen in mainstream supermarkets and grocery discounters.
    • The organic retailer Alnatura, hailed as Germany’s favorite food brand, has seen its revenues triple in ten years, to €762 million in 2016.
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    Audio

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Zahl der Öko-Bauern im Land seit Jahrtausendwende verdoppelt
Organic foods are more popular than ever: An apple bearing the German symbol denoting its organic origins. Source: DPA

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.

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