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12/09/2013

Tourism, then exports

Spain is currently the top European destination for German tourists, a position which offers a perfect opportunity to support Spanish agri-food exports.

Bernd Kieser. Commercial Advisor.

Germany is one of Europe's largest and most appealing markets for foreign foods. In the last few decades, German consumers have increasingly added hitherto unpopular foreign products to their diet. Nevertheless, foreign products still face challenges in entering the food sector.

Over the last 18 months, we have observed, researched and worked intensively on the topic of Spanish products in the German market. Our experience was that, aside from the usual Spanish items available in Germany (wine, fruit and vegetables, olive oils), the offer does not reflect the extensive variety of Spanish food products. The supermarket shelves do not reflect the knowledge that German consumers gain about Spanish products after vacationing there, the articles published about the Mediterranean diet, the famous Spanish chefs, or the Spanish foods featured in the German media. All this, together with a lack of understanding, certainty and information, does not seem to be enough to further pique the interest of supermarket managers.

The Mediterranean products available at German supermarkets are primarily Italian, due to the country's long-standing tradition in that market. Italy was the first Mediterranean tourist destination for Germans in the early 50's, which created this trend and has led to the resounding success of Italian products.

Today there are many successful Italian restaurants, cafés and ice cream shops in Germany. Germans have extensive knowledge about basic Italian foods such as pasta, pizza, cheeses, wine, olive oil, olives, tomato and other sauces, tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, and coffee, and they directly associate them with Mediterranean products.

Later, Greek products won over German palates through a large number of restaurants and Greek foods available in stores, including sheep's cheese, Greek yoghurt, dolma (grape leaves stuffed with rice), ouzo, Greek wine, olive oil and Kalamata olives. Both Italian and Greek products are currently very popular in Germany; consumers understand and associate them with the Mediterranean Diet.

Tapas, a promotional tool

Spanish gastronomy and products have a much smaller presence in Germany than other foreign foods, such as Italian, which ranks first, followed by Greek, Turkish and Balkan.

However, tourists visiting Spain generally try its world-renowned tapas, which have served as a springboard and have enabled certain Spanish products to enter the German market. And Spain has something else to celebrate: it is currently the preferred European tourist destination for Germans: 8.8% spend their vacation in Spain, i.e. 40% more than in Italy. This provides the perfect opportunity to promote, and raise awareness about, Spanish products and cuisine in Germany.

In view of the smaller number of Spanish restaurants around the world (compared with Italian ones), Spanish gastronomy's privileged position worldwide at present and the high number of tourists who visit Spain represent a significant opportunity for Spanish agri-food exports.

Areas for improvement

There are still few well-known Spanish brands with a notable presence in German supermarkets. Moreover, managers still don't appear to have much information about, or truly understand, Spanish products. Accordingly, product communication and presentation are essential, and when executed with promotional activities, they are even more powerful.

Germany's food distribution segment is using certain Spanish products, such as olive oil, as low value goods. The fact that high-quality Spanish products are sold at very low prices (far from those of its rivals) can confuse consumers and give rise to doubts about selling those products at supermarkets.

Specialized food companies, which can help introduce quality Spanish foods into Germany, are open to new, interesting products provided that they comply with German consumers' criteria (e.g. they don't include artificial ingredients).

A trend in thematic Mediterranean weeks has been visible in recent years, especially in the hard discount segment. However, the products included in those promotions are generally store brand, low in price and of average quality.

To get the offer back on track and ensure adequate marketing of quality Spanish food products in Germany, it would be advisable to:

- Gain the trust of supermarket managers by using clear, appealing and sustainable concepts

- Offer attractive product assortments

- Create a link between products and their country of origin, tradition and culture

- Educate consumers at points of sale and through promotions

- Present and offer tastings of seasonal products at points of sale

- Offer reasonable prices which align with product quality

- Organize thematic weeks with product assortments

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