Elke Reiser and her husband, who operate an organic farm in Baden-Württemberg, decided in 2022 to sell the direct sales store for organic products that they had been running for a decade. “Sales have collapsed by 20% to 30%. It was a massive drop, people didn’t come to the store as often anymore. At the same time, we have suffered from an increase in costs, in energy but also in personnel, because wages have increased. It’s been a tough year, but things are stabilizing.”says M.me Reiser on the phone. The family has refocused on its traditional agricultural production and its bed and breakfast activity.
In Germany, the year 2022 put an end to a trend that had seemed unchanged for twenty years: the ever-increasing increase in sales of organic food, with annual increases often in double digits. Last year, for the first time in its history, the turnover of the organic branch fell: − 3.5% compared to 2021, to 15.3 billion euros.
In question, the high inflation, which particularly affected food and forced the Germans to review their consumption choices. Among the exhibitors, the mood has darkened considerably: they have not always been able to transfer all of the increase in production costs to their selling prices, some have preferred to store their production.
A picture less gloomy than it seems
In distribution, the shock mainly concerns specialized brands and direct sales, down 18%, according to the report published in February by the association of organic food producers BÖLW. The 100% organic points of sale suffered particularly.
Several regional chains such as Bio-Supermarkt, Basic or Reformhaus Bacher have gone bankrupt. And even the big organic brands like Bio Company have suffered declines in turnover of more than 10%. “We are experiencing the worst collapse of the organic market for thirty-five years”lamented Götz Rehn, founder of the Alnatura stores, in a daily interview Suddeutsche Zeitungin September 2022.
However, the picture is less bleak than it seems. Sales have certainly fallen, but they remain at a high level, well above that of pre-Covid-19. The year 2020, with the closure of restaurants and restrictions on outings, had caused a historic jump in the consumption of organic products. The branch’s turnover thus rose from 12.2 billion euros in 2019 to nearly 15 billion in 2020, then to 15.8 billion in 2021, an increase of 29% in two years.
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