Fleischer had to be tough. The image tarnished, economically declining, socially on the defensive – that was the image of the profession until a few weeks ago. Then came the corona outbreaks in the meat industry and consumers reacted in a flash.
According to a study by the market monitoring company Nielsen, which WELT is exclusively available to, the market for vegan and vegetarian foods is now growing rapidly. But when it comes to meat, the butcher is suddenly at the top of the list of preferred sources of shopping.
The analysis showed that 85 out of 100 consumers put their trust primarily in the local butcher. Meanwhile, the number of buyers of meat and sausage products at discounters such as Aldi, Netto or Lidl is falling by 19 percentage points.
“Consumers are clearly questioning the origin of the meat: the local butcher is a trustworthy seller, while many view the discounter goods rather skeptically,” says retail expert Thomas Montiel Castro from Nielsen Germany. According to the survey, organic markets and local weekly markets also enjoy great trust among consumers.
The number of butcher shops in Germany has been falling since 2008
For the artisanal meat industry, the newly awakened quality awareness probably marks the beginning of a change for the better. The long-established Düsseldorf butcher’s shop Schlösser is already feeling the change. “New customers come into the business, including many younger ones,” says master butcher Jörg Anton Schlösser. For example, specific questions are asked about meat from “straw pigs”, ie animals kept on straw, and regionally produced beef.
The yearbook of the German Butchers ‘Association shows how deep the butchers’ frustration is about social marginalization to date. “Politicians and the general public are constantly giving the impression that self-employed butchers are exploiters of their staff, tax evaders, human poisoners, destroyers of the environment, cruelers to animals and filthy finches,” says the opening statement.
But instead of holding the real culprits accountable, the surveillance authorities impose conditions on the whole guild indiscriminately. “The righteous will be hit above all, the others will not let themselves be stopped by these measures,” complains the professional association.
Because the economic pressure is great. Between 2008 and 2018, the number of butchers in Germany fell by 4,000 to just under 12,000. The decline is also evident in the offspring. In 1972, 2128 master craftsman examinations were taken, in 2018 there were just 352.
Corona increased awareness of a healthy and plant-based diet
The corona outbreaks, such as those at Tönnies and other industrial slaughterhouses and cutting plants, have drawn the attention of a broad public to the working and production conditions in the meat industry and cast the industry in a bad light. Animal welfare is now playing an increasingly important role. One in five consumers stated in the Nielsen survey that they would want to pay more money if production included animal welfare standards and better conditions for workers and their health.
Both butchers and manufacturers of plant-based alternatives benefit from the flight from cheap meat. 42 percent of the households surveyed stated that they had already tried vegetarian or vegan substitute products. Only nine percent describe themselves as vegetarians or vegans. “This shows that meat lovers are also increasingly changing their consumption behavior,” as the Nielsen study states.
The US group Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), one of the largest suppliers of vegetable raw materials for the food industry and animal feed production, comes to a similar conclusion. According to that study by the group, three out of four consumers in western industrialized countries have been paying attention to eating more healthily and increasingly using plant-based meat alternatives since the corona pandemic.
“Flexitarian offers are not a temporary phenomenon, they will remain. A new industry is emerging before our eyes that is completely geared towards growth, ”says ADM Product Manager George Perujo of WELT.
In the future there will be alternatives to poultry, beef and fish
Consistent vegans and vegetarians would continue to form a minority, but many consumers, the so-called flexitarians, are replacing individual meat meals with plant-based alternatives. The fast food chain McDonald’s has been offering vegan burgers for a long time, the plant-based patties of which are produced by suppliers such as Beyond Meat or the Nestlé Group with its Garden Gourmet brand.
“In the future, we will see many innovative vegan and vegetarian products with a wider range of variations than we have seen before,” predicts Perujo. “They will encompass the full range of meat products that are available today, such as alternatives to poultry, beef or even fish.” In Europe, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Germany were among the most important markets in this segment, but also in the USA and Alternative proteins would have success in South America.
“In five to ten years at the latest, we will have plant-based products that can no longer be distinguished from muscle meat, such as a chicken fillet,” says the product manager of the ADM Group, which operates production facilities in Germany with 2,800 employees. This includes a refinery in Hamburg for processing rapeseed and soybeans into margarine, vegetable oil or raw materials for baking. Further ADM plants are located in Mainz, Heidelberg and Straubing.
Like in a time lapse, Corona condenses the already existing trends. According to the Nielsen data, sales of meat alternatives increased by 76 percent in the first half of the current year compared to the same period of the previous year. “Vegetarian meat alternatives such as vegetarian mince, burger or schnitzel are particularly popular here,” says Nielsen expert Castro.
Sales of vegetarian products increased, especially at discounters
Overall, business with vegetarian and vegan products in German retail rose by 42.3 percent in the first half of the year. The most popular veggie products are milk alternatives, which alone account for almost 30 percent of sales. Almost half of the milk alternatives are based on oats, one fifth each on almonds and soy.
A large part of this growing market is skimmed off by supermarkets such as Edeka, Rewe or Bünting. But especially for the discounters, the plant trend is opening up the opportunity to at least partially offset the impending meat losses. According to Nielsen, since the beginning of the year they have achieved an increase in sales of almost 50 percent with the sale of vegetarian and vegan products compared to the previous year. “The discount chains are increasingly making their mark by always offering alternatives to animal products,” says Castro.