1000-strong survey reveals German consumers' food industry wish list

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

Photo credit: Istock
Photo credit: Istock

Related tags: Nutrition

A 1000-strong survey into dietary habits and attitudes shows Germans are generally happy with their food but want more neutral nutrition information and ethically-produced meat - and they are willing to pay more for it.

Commissioned by the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture (BmEL), the survey was carried out by research institute Forsa.

Room for improvement

According to the report’s authors, regional is the new trend with over three quarters (76%) saying this is important to them, a trend that increases with age.  

Ethical preoccupations dominated when respondents were asked what improvements they would like to see, with 86% saying farmers should be better paid and nine out of ten (88%) calling for animal welfare to be made a priority.

What’s more, almost all respondents said they would be willing to put their money where their mouths are – 45% said they were “definitely ready”​ and 44% were “more willing”​ to pay more for animal products if the animals were kept in better conditions. This meant paying an average of €16.50 for one kilogram of meat produced using stricter animal welfare conditions compared with €10 per kilo of conventionally produced meat. This rose to €20 per kilo for 19 to 29 year-olds. Only 2% said they would not be willing to pay more in any case.

Considering that Germany is still nation of meat eaters – 83% of total respondents said they eat meat products, such as schnitzel or sausages, several times a week while more than twice as many men than women eat meat daily – this willingness to pay more could be significant.

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Federal Minister for Food and Agriculture, Christian Schmidt, welcomed the increasing willingness to pay more for good food and said new marketing channels that focussed on the regionality, quality and organic status of a product would allow farmers to exploit this. Last year he announced his intentions to boost domestic organic production.

But for 57% the priority when shopping remained findings inexpensive food.

A knowledge and skills deficit

The survey also revealed some discrepancies between actions and words. The vast majority of respondents said they succeeded in eating healthily every day. On the other hand the growing number of obese people and in particular the high number of overweight children make it clear that there is a knowledge and skills deficit, when it comes to healthy and balanced diet,” ​said the Ministry in a statement.

Nearly all respondents were favourable to government intervention to pave the way for the nation’s healthier diets regardless of age, gender or family situation, with 92% in favour of mandatory nutrition education in schools, and 78% calling for neutral information on nutrition. Meanwhile just under half (43%) were in favour of coercive measures, such as taxes on foods high in fat and sugar.

Schmidt said this showed that his food policy was in the right direction, as he called for nutrition education to be made part of the curriculum. Last May the coalition government denied rumours​ that a ‘sin tax’ on sugar was on the cards.

While a majority (77%) said they had faith in the way food safety is assessed, Schmidt said his department was working to improve this further. Good consumer information and the prevention of fraud [are] a top priority. For this reason, I have initiated the reform of the German Food Code. I do not want to rewrite the whole book, but reformulate and clarify individual chapters for improved consumer protection," ​he said.

As far as tracking down more information on a product, ​60% glean information from on-pack labels and logos. But this is not always sufficient, leaving many to resort to internet searches. “If the information on the spot is insufficient, the smartphone always comes back to use. One fifth of smartphone owners (21%) "Google" when shopping [while] 14% call QR codes when they want to know more,” ​says the report.

Women also have a healthier diet than men, with 85% of women say they eat daily portions of fruit and vegetables compared with 66% of men. They are also less likely to drink soft drinks on a daily basis (16% of men for 10% of women).

The report, Germany as it eats: The BmEL Nutrition Report 2016​, is available to download here​ (in German)

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