German consumers are not familiar with Danish organic products

Germany is an important export market for Danish organic products, but German consumers are not familiar with organic products from Denmark. The story about Danish organic products and Denmark has to be told more compelling in order to increase the Danish export to the German market.

When Denmark is not associated with being a producer of organic food products by German consumers, it makes it harder for Danish exporters of organic food products to compete with for instance Dutch or Austrian exporters. Hence, strengthening Denmark’s organic “image” will increase the potential for more export.

Organic and origin play together

The aim of the SOMDwIT project is to investigate how ”Made in Denmark” compares to for instance ”Made in Austria” for imported organic carrots, pork meat and dairy products in - among other places -Germany. The first study of consumers’ preferences and attitudes towards organic food products from different countries were conducted in three different Germany cities.

The results showed that consumers in München (south, close to Austria) preferred organic products from Austria, while consumers in Münster (west, close to The Netherlands) preferred Dutch organic products. The geographical closeness of the country of origin was clearly important, however, not to the same extent in the case of Denmark. Consumers in Hamburg (north, close to Denmark) did not have strong preferences for Danish organic products – but at least stronger than in München and Münster.

The study shows that German consumers use information about country of origin, together with cues such as organic labelling, when assessing a products’ quality and safety. The stronger the organic image of an exporting country, the more positive the evaluation of organic products from that country by the German consumers, when choosing among organic food products with different origins. 

The Danish export strategy can be strengthened

As an exporter in a highly competitive environment, it is decisive to know what influences consumers, when they are choosing between organic products from different countries.  And here the project has found that transportation distance plays a big role.

When buying imported organic food products, German consumers prefer to get these products from geographically close markets. Germany buys almost half of the Danish export of organic foods, but the results from our study indicate that there is still a huge unexploited potential for export of Danish organic products to Germany. More German consumers would undoubtedly chose to buy more Danish organic food products, if they knew more about the qualities of Danish organic foods.

This is confirmed by Helene Birk, Head of International Marketing in Organic Denmark, who is member of the projects’ steering committee. She assesses that buyers and wholesalers know that Denmark is a leading producer of organic food products. “They are familiar with our solid traditions, when it comes to organic food production, and they know about the thorough control with organic production in Denmark. They also know that Danish organic companies are innovative and produce organic food of high quality. But it is a problem that this knowledge has not been transferred to German consumers, and we need to address this in the nearest future.”

Hence, one of the recommendations from the project is that Danish exporters should attract more positive attention to Danish organic products in German retail stores and convey German consumers that Danish organic farmers produce high-quality food products based on solid and well-founded organic standards that can be trusted.

Professor John Thøgersen and associate professor Jessica Aschemann-Witzel are also part of the international research project ”Sustainable Organic Market Development with International Trade”. The project is part of the Organic RDD 2.2-programme, coordinated by ICROFS (International Centre for Research in Organic Food Systems) and has received funding from GUDP (Grønt Udviklings- og Demonstrationsprogram under Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark). The project started January 1, 2016 and ends December 31, 2017.

Please find more information about SOMDwIT here.