Developing an anti-system food brand: practical lessons from Germany by Nicolas Barthelmé, co-founder of “Du bist hier der Chef!”
Demand for transparency goes beyond German cultural patterns
15,000 German people have already voted
How come so many people are willing to pay farmers and producers a premium for milk and eggs in a competitive market that invented the discount business model?
When asked this, Nicolas Barthelmé replies that while known for being accustomed to low prices, the attitudes of German consumers are slowly changing. They increasingly say they want to know more about the product origin and what system they are supporting. And the Covid-19 pandemic has promoted these changes. Firstly, it shone a light on the abattoirs’ exploitative conditions. Secondly, more German farmers have been selling direct to consumers who are getting increasingly into local food from an accountable source.
For him, more German consumers today, across a diversity of consumer targets, prefer human-sized farms, respect for quality and the environment, and support measures for biodiversity and animal welfare. And hopefully, retailers will soon get involved too.
Co-operation and solidarity rather than competition and profit: is it an anti-capitalist movement?
Removing the barriers of retailers
The German retail market has been the bottleneck of the initiative so far. Rewe and four other German retailers are showing interest but are not real partners yet. Products are not nationally listed. In France, a key success factor was that the leaders of the Carrefour group have supported the consumer-led brand from the beginning – under the condition that the leaders of the initiative would not earn a cent of the premium price paid by consumers.
Another barrier for retailers is that the traditional one-to-one negotiation is no longer valid. There are now four people who are provided with a seat at the table – the consumer, the producer, the manufacturer, and the retailer. To deliver a fair margin throughout the value chain, each has a say. It demands the retail market to change, and it takes time.
What about other countries outside France and Germany?
Each country works on its food favourites: Greece started with olive oil, feta cheese and yogurt while Germany will continue with potatoes. Besides, some communities are larger, for example in Germany. Countries are not equally receptive to a food cause. In the UK, they are also facing issues with Brexit and an extremely high private labels’ market share.
Nicolas Barthelmé says he is confident in the international success of the movement though given the universal values shared. Regardless of where they live, many consumers have real questions about what they are buying and eating.