German Meat Congress Upbeat mood continues

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Friday, December 04, 2015
Photo: Thomas Fedra

Good news for companies in the meat industry. Germany is not about to become a land of vegetarians overnight.

By Bernd Feuerstein and Sandra Sieler

Record number of participants for anniversary: Around 350 guests from the meat, food and supply industries (machinery and ingredients) attended the 10th Deutscher Fleisch Kongress held at Frankfurt airport.

Almost every household buys sausage. Commenting on consumer sentiment with regard to meat and sausage, Helmut Hübsch brought good news at the opening of the congress for meat industry entrepreneurs. Despite booming sales of vegetarian sausages and schnitzels, Germany is not suddenly developing into a country of vegetarians, as the market researchers at GfK in Nuremberg revealed when interpreting this year's buying data to date.

Nevertheless, growing numbers of people in Germany are eating less meat. This translates into roughly 13,000 tonnes fewer sales per year in the meat and sausage segments, according to Hübsch. But the prospects for these imitation products are not especially rosy either, commented the consumer researcher: "When there are so many players in such a small market, then there are only meagre pickings for each individual company"

Global players

Roberto Banfi, CEO for Europe and Eurasia of the Brazilian meat group Brazil Foods (BRF), provided an outsider's view of the European market. He noted that the trends that Hübsch outlined for Germany - less meat, greater consumer awareness, less cooking in everyday life, more out-of-home consumption - also reflected global developments and hence the challenges facing his own company.
Roberto Banfi
Foto: Thomas Fedra
Roberto Banfi
BRF was founded in 2009 with the merger of Perdigao and Sadia. The global group supplies approximately 2320 products - primarily poultry meat-based - to 120 countries. BRF accounts for 14 per cent of the global volume of turkey meat and is bought by 95 percent of Brazilian households. Banfi quoted impressive figures: 32 million turkeys and 185,000 pigs are slaughtered per week by the vertically fully integrated group.  The group itself maintains 44 production facilities, nine of them abroad. Within Europe the most important market, Great Britain, is followed by Germany. Key accounts here include Wiesenhof and Herta. The most modern plant is in Abu Dhabi which supplies the markets in North-East Africa, Iran and Pakistan.
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"No matter how big is a company, it must do its work."  The following speaker, Josef Hempen, brought the meat congress participants back from the global to the local - German - market. In the export markets, the "Five-D" country of origin labels for German produce has proved successful, the Managing Director of Böseler Goldschmaus reported. The Lower Saxony-based company sells about half of its pork production abroad. "We have to appreciate the fact that a trotter is as valuable in China as tenderloin is for us," he pointed out, explaining how important it is for his company to consider the entire value chain.

Christian Leding introduced himself to the Frankfurt audience as the future head of Westfleisch SCE. Already represented on the board, he will take over as Dr. Helfried Giesen's successor at the cooperative slaughtering company in Münster from January 2016.
Christian Leding
Foto: Thomas Fedra
Christian Leding
By changing the legal form of the company to an "SCE" - a European cooperative society - it has already set its basic course for the future with regard to its exports, shareholders, capitalization and bank rating. "Our owners are the farmers," said Leding, identifying the driving force behind the company's actions. It is therefore governed neither by NGOs nor by a desire to maximise shareholder value. "We are our own masters." Although the company launched the Westcrown joint venture with Danish Crown for sow cutting, the designated head of Westfleisch clearly rejected any suggestion of closer cooperation. "Both are fundamentally independent."

An historic opportunity and a challenge

The podium discussion on Initiative Tierwohl highlighted the successes, but also the challenges involved. Managing Director Dr. Alexander Hinrichs put forward the facts: the associated retailers have been paying four cents into a fund since the beginning of the year for every kilo of pork sold. The money benefits the farmers organized in the initiative, compensating them for the higher animal welfare standards. Eleven retail chains are currently involved, "… but it would be great to see more join," said Hinrichs.

This means that roughly EUR 85 million are available per year, representing EUR 255 million until 2017, as the initiative is initially set to run for three years. "What happens next?" moderator Renate Kühlcke of FleischWirtschaft wanted to know. One of the sticking points is that only about half of the farmers who were interested were allowed to participate, due to the limited financial resources in the first phase. That is why it is important to attract additional partners. Hinrichs is looking not only to the retailers, but to all those who buy, process or sell meat: cash+carry traders, wholesalers, the craft butcher sector and restaurant chains.

Karl-Georg Musiol provided information on brand management. The Managing Director of Markendienst GmbH stressed that brands need to embody a clear stance. The anthroposophical background is extremely important here, as brands can quickly develop into personalities. "The brands are becoming human," he declared, which requires highly professional handling of brand management.

Joachim Bacher of TNS Infratest described the diet of the future. According to a survey, consumer confidence in foods of animal origin has risen in the last two years. This positive mood is set to continue in the coming years, was the conclusion which Bacher drew from the study. The trend towards out-of-home consumption will gather pace in the next 15 years. Meals will increasingly be delivered and not cooked, the market researcher concluded. Food is developing into a status symbol and therefore an expression of lifestyle. Online shopping will continue to expand until 2030, although the grocery stores will still be the main sources of information and places for sampling new products.

Karl-Heinz Esser offered the congress attendees an insight into his 33-branch butchery business. Each of the branches, 28 of which he operates jointly with or in close proximity to a baker, is organised differently, explained the master butcher from Erkelenz in the Lower Rhine region. "Each branch has its own clients and staff." He liaises with the bakers to ensure that, together, they can offer the customers high quality merchandise. In the combined stores he supplies cooked meat to the bakers and, in return, foregoes the sale of cooked-meat sandwiches. He stressed how important clearly defined rules are here for the joint operation of a store.

Esser attaches a great deal of importance to the training of young people. "Training needs to be organised differently these days," he stressed, speaking up for today's trainees. "Young people want to work, but they also want their free time." Esser has taken on 20 trainees this year and points out with pride that most of his branch managers have learned their craft from him.

Active customer care

Michael Durst from Hamburg also felt that well-trained staff are of utmost importance. The director of the Hamburg guild and Vice President of the DFV (German Butchers Association) explained that good employees have a decisive influence on the average spend per customer and thus the success of a business.
Michael Durst
Foto: Thomas Fedra
Michael Durst
In addition he felt that promotional campaigns are an important means of enlivening business. He is at pains to get across the message that butchery offers something for everyone. Visits to schools are instruments of education, he believes. "It's no longer good enough to wait for customers to come into the shops, we must be proactive," said Durst.

In the concluding panel discussion Dirk Ludwig, Ralph Ehrentraut, Jens-Uwe Bünger and Michael Ebert answered questions posed by moderator Renate Kühlcke. Dirk Ludwig, who runs a craft butcher's shop in Schlüchtern in Hesse, attaches most importance to meat refinement. His own solution has been to open a cookery school. Ludwig: "The butcher is increasingly becoming an artisanal entertainer."
Foto: Thomas Fedra
The manager of Dürrröhrsdorfer Fleisch- und Wurstwaren GmbH boosts the success of his own butchery business by cooperating with farmers. Ralph Ehrentraut and his family have bought into a suckler-cow business in Saxony from where he now sources his beef.

Jens-Uwe Bünger has always matured beef using the dry-aged method, although he never called it this. He now regards the new name, however, as an opportunity to gain an edge over the competition. According to the Berlin-based butcher a key development is the noticeable increase in the number of men who like to cook - and who prefer high quality.

Michael Ebert also specialises in the sale of beef and lamb. The Frankfurt butcher, who runs his business in one of the busiest spots in the city, has no interest in setting up a chain. He relies on the customer trust built up over many years at the original city-centre location.

Weblink to German Meat Congress.

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