Few German retailers import products directly from other countries. Most food retailers rather buy from central buyers/distributors specialized in the import of food & beverages. In general, these wholesalers have specialized in products or product groups; some are even experts in food products from a specific country of origin. These specialized importers have in-depth knowledge of all importing requirements such as the necessary product certificates, labeling and packaging and also take care of the shipping, customs clearance, warehousing and distribution of the products within the country. It is advisable that foreign exporters find a local representation in order to place and promote their products successfully within Germany. In addition, more and more retailers, but also some food producers itself launch online shops, which are groewing slowly but steadily. Especially some niche segments, including e.g. wines or food supplements, gained a remarkable online market share.
The German retail food sector is dominated by five large retailers that claimed more than 75 percent of the market share in 2013. Recently, consumers and food retailers have increasingly been paying attention to the quality, transparency, and traceability of products. The overall market share of discounters offering a limited selection of mainly private label goods at low prices remained stable at around 41 percent. As mentioned above, most of the German retailers rely on specialized distributors/wholesalers for their products. However, some supermarket chains will sometimes contract directly with a foreign supplier and appoint an importing company of their choice to bring the products into Germany accordingly.
Especially for foreign food and beverages companies, another useful way of finding the right distribution channel for their products is to visit or participate in the various food trade fairs taking place in Germany. Trade shows like ANUGA, ProWein - the international trade fair for wines and spirits, BioFach - the world’s leading trade fair for organic food, INTERNORGA - the international trade fair for the hotel, restaurant & catering sector, or ISM – the international confectionery trade fair in Germany, enjoy an exceptional reputation among industry experts worldwide. Participating in any of these events facilitates the direct contact with German food retailers, importers and wholesalers.