A survey released on Friday showed that a massive 51 percent of Germans said price was their primary consideration when buying food, while 49 percent said quality was more important.
The “Consumers‘ Choice 2011“ study, conducted by the market research firm GfK and the Federation of German Food and Drink Industries (BVE), questioned 30,000 households about their shopping habits.
While it is easy to see whether one product is more expensive than another, determining quality is more difficult - as shown by the 81 percent of those surveyed who found it difficult to quantify the term quality.
Of those asked, 96 percent of consumers said that taste was most important for determining quality, while 93 percent paid attention to consumer food safety and health criteria.
The German assumption that food in the supermarket is of a certain standard may be responsible for the popularity of
discounters such as Aldi, Netto and Lidl - or reflect the strong competitive pressure food retailers face to keep prices low.
“Consumers have a positive picture of the quality of food in Germany,” said Sabine Eichner, managing director of BVE in a statement.
Despite the fact Germans are widely considered to pay less at the supermarket than Italians, Spaniards and Brits, 54 percent of consumers reckon the quality of food in Germany is better than abroad. A further 41 percent think food quality has improved in the last ten years.
The showed a high level of agreement in defining quality groceries as “appetizing, fresh, healthy ingredients and residue free.”
But these criteria are “selfish” criteria, based on individual consumer use rather than general interest criteria, such as “animal welfare” and “fair prices for producers.”
Of those asked, 74 percent said they would include the general interest criteria in defining high quality.
But, the pollsters noted, such claims often rank higher in surveys than is actually the case – people will say they take more consideration of such factors than they do in real life.
Household income, for example, is also an issue in the price-quality debate. Of the quality-conscious consumers, 41 percent defined themselves as “able to afford almost everything,” while 32 percent of the price-minded said they “could barely afford anything.”