Food Trends in Germany: Category Growth Drivers

Explore how different food and beverage categories in Germany are developing

June 20, 2024 – Germany, known for its love of hearty meals and indulgent treats, is experiencing a fascinating shift in its food and beverage landscape. While Germans remain a nation of food lovers, they are increasingly prioritizing health and sustainability. Here, through our 360 research into the German food and beverage market, we explore how these values are influencing purchasing decisions across various categories, from beverages to snacks and meal preparation.

Beverages in the German Market

German consumers want to reduce their alcohol intake; however, alcoholic beverages are still at large within the country. When asked why they want to control how much alcohol they drink, the most common consumer response was “because it is unhealthy.” Some consumers are turning to non-alcoholic beverages as replacements. Beer is the dominant non-alcoholic beverage in Germany, but variety and novelty is helping drive other non-alcoholic beverage purchases. Indulgent is the top claim for non-alcoholic beverage drinkers, chosen as most important by 25% of consumers. A further 16% look for low/no/reduced sugar claims, so healthy indulgence should be a target of note for innovators.

In soft drinks, bottled water consumption is on the rise, with more than one in five Germans increasing their intake in the past year. Two in three named its healthy image as a driver of consumption. For other key soft drinks subcategories, such as carbonated beverages, energy drinks, iced coffee and iced tea, the combination of low/no/reduced-sugar claims with indulgence positionings are the most influential claims for consumers.

Consumers are increasing their coffee purchases more than tea purchases in Germany, boosted primarily by indulgence factors. Two in three consumers who increased their coffee intake did so due to taste preference, and indulgence was the most influential individual claim. However, among those reducing their coffee intake, many are doing so because of a change in their budget. In hot tea consumption, health and taste preferences are equally as important as the main reasons for increasing intakes. The most influential individual claims relate to naturalness and indulgence, so combining natural health benefits with attractive flavors is key.

Everyday Staples in German Food Trends

In Germany, consumer interest in fresh, local, and natural bread and cereal foods is driving growth in the category. A significant 10.5% increase in consumption compared to the previous year is fueled by a focus on healthy and natural ingredients. While cost is a major consideration for consumers, the desire for fresh and healthy foods outweighs budget concerns. Consumers are particularly interested in bread and cereal products with real ingredients, and low sugar content. This trend is reflected in the popularity of cereals and muesli, with 30% of consumers citing real ingredients as an influence and 28% drawn to low-sugar recipes.

Dairy demand is broadly static in Germany, with slight increases in yogurt and cheese consumption. Consumers prioritize natural ingredients and local sourcing, with a focus on real ingredients over health claims. Interest in indulgence over-indexes, while premium and traditional claims under-index. Additionally, protein and low sugar claims are less influential for Germans compared to the global average.

For the meat and fish subcategory, health is the main reason consumers cite for increasing their intake of fish, but environmental considerations are the main reason consumers have decreased their consumption of meat. Among 19% of consumers who are reducing their meat intake, 40% say that they are doing so for environmental reasons. Traceability is more often mentioned as an influence in meat and fish consumption in Germany than it is globally. Additionally, local sourcing is highly valued for meat consumption, but less so for fish.

Food trends in Germany

Meal Preparation Food Trends

In Germany, the meal preparation category is experiencing significant shifts in consumer behavior in 2024. Savory spreads are emerging as big winners, with 9% more consumers increasing their consumption of these foods, driven by factors like greater awareness and variety.

A notable food trend in Germany is an increased focused on environmental benefits and cost-effective solutions, leading to a surge in “scratch cooking” with stocks, seasonings, and bouillons seeing a 3% increase. This trend is particularly pronounced in the country, where environmental concerns outweigh taste and flavor considerations, unlike global trends. Additionally, food trend research indicates that while the overall meal preparation category is experiencing growth, some consumers are cutting back on sweet spreads and ready meals due to health concerns.

Palm oil-free claims, and indulgence claims are highly important to German consumers, with the two standing as the #4 and #3 most common claims on meal preparation items respectively. This food trend is more pronounced in Germany than globally.

Snacks and Treats

Penetration for snacks and treats in Germany is high, and German consumers are more likely to purchase these products compared to the global average. There is additionally a strong preference for indulgent treats, with chocolate having the largest discrepancy between global purchases rates, and German purchase rates. 75% of Germans say that they purchased chocolate in the past year, compared to the global average of 65%. Additionally, 63% of Germans said that they purchased a cake, pastry, or sweet good in the past year, compared to the global average of 54%. The sole exception to the standard of Germans purchasing more snacks and treats is the subcategory of cereal and energy bars, where Germans purchase less than the global average. However, this is likely attributed to the healthy image of these products, whereas German consumers are more interested in indulgent treats.

Despite high penetration of snacks and treats in the German market, consumers say that they are eating fewer unhealthy treats. Health is the primary reason Germans say that they are cutting back on these foods. However, for those increasing purchases of snacks and treats, increased variety on the shelf was an important driver. Health oriented new product development, promoting variety and nutritional benefits, could help shift German consumers attitudes towards these products.

Plant-Based and Special Diet Trends in Germany

German purchasing rates of plant-based foods is within the top four in the world, with 33% of consumers having bought dairy alternatives in the past year and 30% purchasing meat substitutes. As many as one in three consumers of plant-based meat, cheese, and milk drinks are increasing their consumption of these foods, while more than one in four are upping their consumption of plant-based yogurt.

However, in sports nutrition, German purchasing rates are slightly below the global average. Still, more than one in four consumers are increasing their intake, according to food trend research. The main reasons given are for general health and because they are exercising more. High in protein and low in sugar are the top claims in this subcategory.

Germans are also more likely than the global average to name environment considerations as a reason for increasing plant-based food consumption. Globally, health leads the way in driving demand within this category, but it is the #2 reason for Germans increasing non-dairy consumption, and #4 for those increasing their intake of meat substitutes.

What’s Next in Food Trends in Germany?

Germany appears to be an indulgent nation, consistently over-indexing the global average in their demand for indulgent tastes. These do not necessarily correlate with premium positionings, with the emphasis on simple enjoyment of the eating experience. However, Germans also say that they are reducing their intake of sweet treats and snacks. Sugar is at the heart of the health movement in the country, with German consumers laying emphasis on sugar reduction as a core health message. In response, brands can explore methods of sugar-reduction innovation within indulgent treats, satiating both consumer desires in one product.

Cost-of-living pressures have also made pricing more important than in many other nations around the world. Achieving affordable indulgence is, therefore, a significant target for innovators. Finally, German consumers demonstrate an above-average interest in the environment, particularly in plant-based foods, where health is of secondary importance. Brands can double down on the sustainability aspects of plant-based products in response, driving more German consumers to feel good about their purchases.


This article is based on our report, “Category Growth Drivers in Germany.” If you are interested in reading this report, feel free to request a demo.
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