With the world's largest food trade fair underway in Cologne, organizers say the industry is fighting for growth. But healthy and frozen foods continue to capture public attention.
Frozen seafood, destined for a hotel kitchen, on view at Anuga
The Anuga trade fair is open to the trade only, but a wide variety of visitors from around the world make the biennial pilgrimmage to Cologne to catch up on the latest trends and developments in food, be it organic, frozen, or gourmet.
After a few years of falling exhibitor numbers, the fair is back on a growth track, said Cologne Trade Fair chief Wolfgang Kranz. With 63,000 exhibitors, there are 4.7 percent more companies showing their wares this year than two years ago. Also, the field has clearly become more international, with 108 countries represented this year, up from 90 two years ago, Kranz said.
Morocco is one of 108 countreis represented
A clear trend in Germany is the growth in demand for frozen foods. Projections put overall consumption of frozen food for 2005 up 2.8 percent from the year earlier, the German Frozen Foods Institute said. On average, a typical German ate one kilogram more of frozen food in 2005 than in 2004, the institute said.
Statistics give slight hope
The head of the German Food Wholesalers' association said he is hopeful about the future of the sector, although the economic situation for large food consumers, like hotels and restaurants, is not especially good.
A giant shopping cart floats down the Rhine prior to the Anuga opening.
"In general, you can say that the industry is seeing more light than shadow at the moment. It is slowly getting better -- but it is really hard to see a strong growth trend in the hotel and gastronomy sectors," Ehler said. "The opportunities for growth in the moment are particularly visible in hotels that specialize in conferences and wellness, and in city hotels."
But if times are not very easy for the German food industry, optimists still abound. A growth trend can be definitely seen in the health foods sector, said Jürgen Abraham of the Federation of German Food and Drink Industries (BVE.)
Some food sellers are marketing with an eye to the soccer World Cup in 2006
Price is key
But the industry needs to get used to the idea that price continues to be the decisive shopping factor for most consumers.
"On the German market, the industry has long been fighting resistance by consumers, and is looking for ways to get over this focus on prices. The half-year results for 2005 seem quietly optimistic," Abraham said. Overall sales reached 65 billion euros, up 2.4 percent from a year earlier. "But sales within Germany were much lower than that, due to high unemployment and slow consumption."