Buttering up the Germans
“We need to appeal to younger consumers and for them butter can be too ‘heavy’ so Kerrygold Extra, which has 20 per cent less fat, is more acceptable. It is also in a tub, which is modern and more convenient. These variations have provided us with up-to-date products that are in line with the trend to light and healthy living,” Kügler says.
Sliced cheese, for example, is a big breakfast business in Germany and in 2013 Kerrygold will launch two new (Irish-made) sliced cheese products. “It is undoubtedly a very competitive segment but consumers like to know where their food is coming from and you don’t always get that with German products,” he says.
“The pure image of Irish food products in Germany is already very strong and is something that should be cared for,” Kügler says. “In my opinion the possible threats to it are something like an animal health scare or the perception of Ireland as a not overly industrialised country changing. As regards making the most of it, perhaps promoting organic products more and putting more emphasis on the origin of products, sustainability, and on good animal welfare could help as consumers become more and more conscious of what they are eating.”
Bord Bia also sees this potential. Speaking recently to The Irish Times, its marketing manager in Germany, Liam MacHale, said Irish food producers may be able to trade as much on the island’s green image as their actual products but German consumers are prone to mass hysteria over food scares and run a mile from a product they believe to be tainted. Anyone who pays lip service to a green Irish image without taking it seriously could see their German market collapse overnight.
Despite the challenges, there is growing recognition among Irish food producers that the German market is the big prize in Europe.
Kügler says: “In my opinion the German market is very open to new Irish food products. The groundwork has already been done by Kerrygold over nearly 40 years and all Irish food companies can benefit from this. For Kerrygold itself perhaps there is room to extend our range beyond dairy products.”