German consumption patterns are changing due to a combination of inflation, climate change and the pandemic, in this order of priority, according to expert consultant of AMI, Hans-Christoph Behr, speaking at a webinar organised by Enza Zaden in the framework of the firm’s House Fair 2022.
Surging inflation is driving German consumers to look for special offers and discounts, and to buy lower volumes. Among the most hit categories are vegetables, with sales of conventional vegetables down 8% from 2021, and sales of organic down 5.4%; however, the level is now around the same as it was pre-pandemic. Organic vegetables have found an ally in discount supermarkets. “Sales of vegetables overall are down in all channels, but sales of organic vegetables are growing in discounters,” said Behr, with the level up 8% in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period in 2021.
By categories, the tomato continues to take pride of place in the German shopping basket, with German households purchasing over 800,000 tons in the first nine months of 2022, which is far behind the nearly-million-level of 2019. The favourite varieties of Germans are cherry and cocktail tomatoes. “Small tomatoes, in general, account for almost half of consumption in Germany and around 64% of spending,” said Behr. Spending on tomatoes has increased by almost 3.5% from last year, while volumes have fallen by over 3%, with the most hit being beef types and organics. While consumption of premium tomatoes grew during the pandemic, the situation has now been reversed.
As for peppers, while spending is up, volume sales have only risen very slightly. In the case of pepper, premium segments are not growing at all and the California Red type has been the biggest winner of this crisis, although there is still a market for conical and mini snack varieties. Behr highlighted the increase in conical pepper imports from Morocco and Turkey, which often feature in promotions. Purchases of conical and mini peppers are also up grow in discount retailers.
In the cucumber segment, too, sales of mini varieties have grown most in value, and the only varieties of cucumber to do so in volume. Once again, it is the discounters where sales performance is strongest.
For Behr, there is no doubt that the dark economic outlook across Europe is leading consumers to be more conservative in their purchases and bringing about two clear trends:
1) traditional supermarkets are no longer managing to differentiate themselves from discounters, which have become the preferred purchase option, even for premium products;
2) there are still loyal consumers of premium products keeping the categories of small tomatoes and mini cucumbers alive.