Frugal Germans consider cost first at the supermarket

It may seem that low cost supermarkets are ubiquitous in Germany – and there are 16,000 of them scattered around the country – but shoppers here are generally confident of the quality of their groceries.

Frugal Germans consider cost first at the supermarket
Photo: DPA

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.”

The Local/dpa/emh

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Only in Germany: McDonald’s begins offering ‘Spargel Burger’

Amid Germany's famous 'Asparagus Season', the fast food chain has begun offering an unusual twist on typical ingredients.

Only in Germany: McDonald's begins offering 'Spargel Burger'
A basket of Spargel in Kutzleben, Thuringia marked the start of this year's season on April 14th. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Martin Schutt

How do you know that you’re definitely in Germany? One sure fire way: when you check the menu of a McDonald’s in the springtime and see a ‘Spargel Burger’. 

Germans are so enamored by the ‘white gold’ –  special light-coloured asparagus which is much thicker than its North American green counterpart – that it’s now a featured fast food at McDonald’s Germany, and with classic Hollandaise sauce and bacon to boot. 

On Thursday, the popular American fast-food chain restaurant – which counts nearly 1,500 outlets in Germany – published a photo of the “Big Spargel Hollandaise” saying that it would be available at select restaurants. They assured customers: “Yes, it’s really there.”

But its release was met with mixed reactions. “We absolutely have to go to McDonald’s sometime,” wrote one. Yet another called the unconventional creation “perverse.”

Another commenter showed skepticism: “Hollandaise sauce on a burger? Does that even taste good?”

Others weighed in on social media to point out that the product is a sign of Germany’s fascination with the vegetable. 

The burger is the latest to join the asparagus craze, with a phallic-shaped Spargel monument in Torgau, Saxony capturing the public attention – or bewilderment – earlier in the week.

An annual tradition

Every year, Germany typically celebrates ‘Spargelzeit’ (asparagus season) from the middle of April until June 24th, which many dub ‘Spargelsilvester’ (Asparagus-New Year’s Eve). 

READ ALSO: German word of the day: Spargelzeit

The beloved vegetable, harvested heavily around the country, usually has its own special menu devoted to it at restaurants, and is sold in supermarkets – or road-side stands – next to jars of the classic Hollandaise sauce. 

The top states which grow the crop are Lower Saxony, Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, but Beeliz, Brandenburg is also synonymous with Spargel in Germany. 

In normal years the tiny town hosts a sprawling festival to mark the start of the season, anointing a Spargel king and queen.

READ ALSO: Here’s why Germans go so completely crazy for asparagus