Weist finds common ground among regional-sourcing UK and continental shoppers​

Kath Hammond
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Germany and the UK might be very different marketplaces for fresh produce, but there are some trends that both countries share. Stephan Weist is national category director in Germany for the Rewe Group; one of Europe’s largest retailers in food and non-food alike. In this video interview he tells Produce Business UK about some of those trends and their likely impact

Among UK suppliers, German retailers have had a reputation as being focused on price rather than quality when it comes to fresh produce, with a preponderance of discount operators and a pile-‘em-high, sell-‘em-cheap mantra. Listening to Weist, however, two of Europe’s largest markets seem to have more in common than at first glance.

Regional preference

“I doubt that there is one trend for Europe,” he says. “I think we have very national trends…in Germany, the current trends are around ‘regionalities’; knowing where the product comes from, transparency, information about the product and the people who are involved in producing it.”

Weist believes there are two main drivers behind this trend. “It is probably a mixture between the consumer’s definition of sustainability… if it’s near then obviously it’s good for the environment,” he says.

“…The other point is that all the products on the shelves are the same from country to country so maybe it [regional production] gives you back a little bit more of your identity.”

Market repercussions

But this is not without a knock-on effect. Weist highlights tomatoes and peppers as a case in point since both products have enjoyed a surge in regionally identified production in Germany.

“This has an impact on the Dutch producers,” he explains, “who have to either find new markets or new varieties in order to take a different niche in the market.”

These changes don’t happen overnight of course, he insists, but their repercussions are felt nonetheless.

Another issue where repercussions in the marketplace will be felt is the online arena, where some of the giants of the internet are poised to make their mark in traditional supermarket territory.

“Whether it’s Amazon or other online solutions, we will see a much higher degree of transparency in prices, ingredients and quality,” says Weist. “I think it will have a massive impact and maybe more than we all can imagine today.”

Stephan Weist was talking to Produce Business UK at the London Produce Show and Conference 2015. Don’t miss next year’s event, which takes place on June 8-10, 2016, at the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London.

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