Tradition and High Quality at Heart of “Sweets from Germany”

Last Wednesday’s half-day confectionery showcase event “Sweets from Germany” in Dublin provided a great insight into the German confectionery market and latest trends to an audience of Irish stakeholders in the industry, including representatives from wholesale, retail, HORECA, manufacture and import. The showcase was aimed at developing German-Irish business relationships in the confectionery sector and featured a wide range of German confectionery such as chocolate, marzipan delicacies, nougat, double-baked biscuits, pralines, gingerbread, dragées, wafers, rusks and crispbread from 11 German companies, many of whom are interested in taking their first steps into the Irish market. Others such as Haribo and August Storck, which is the company behind Riesen and Werthers Original, are already established in Ireland as firm favourites. The German products also included some famous German specialities, such as hand-crafted Niederegger marzipan and Lambertz’ ‘Printen’ biscuits, which are very popular gingerbread specialities from Aachen. 

“Germany is very well qualified to know a lot about sweets,” this according to Karin Stieldorf from German Sweets, the representative body for over 100 German confectionery manufacturers. “By market volume, it is the fourth largest market for confectionery products in the world, and there are two German companies in the top ten confectionery producers worldwide. Our relationship with Ireland is also good: Germany is the second most important foreign supplier of confectionery products to Ireland, behind the UK.” 

Stieldorf explained that many German confectionery companies are often successful because of their focus on tradition. Her presentation ‘Strong in Export, Strong on Innovation’ focussed on the SMEs who make up more than 90% of the German confectionery sector. “Many of the German confectionery companies are family-owned businesses built on tradition. Lambertz, for example, is over 300 years old and started as a small bakery in Aachen. Another company, Brandt, is over 100 years old. Everybody in Germany is familiar with the Brandt label, a vintage image of a small child, as they have grown up with it. In export markets, I suppose the challenge is that the tradition isn’t always as well known, so it takes time to build this trust.”

German companies often differentiate themselves through their focus on quality. Premium brands in Germany include Niederegger, Lambertz and Schwermer. Stieldorf from German Sweets highlights the example of Niederegger, who manufacture Germany’s most popular marzipan chocolates: “They use 100% marzipan paste, in comparison to the 50% found in many other brands.” Ben Daniels, Commercial Director with Ritter Sport UK & Ireland also agrees that history and quality are important for German companies. “Ritter sport is a family business established in 1912. Our company is completely obsessed with high quality chocolate, and it’s a strategy that has worked as we have sales in over 103 countries. We are now currently revising our plans for the Irish market and are very excited about our future here.”

“The main aim of our event was to assess the potential for German-Irish co-operation in the confectionery sector,” according to Aideen Keenan, Head of Marketing at the German-Irish Chamber of Commerce in Dublin, the organisation that was appointed by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture to run the information seminar in the Citywest Hotel. She continued “Germany is not necessarily known as a confectionery stronghold despite the fact that major players such as Haribo, Werthers Original and Ritter Sport are ‘Made in Germany’ brands. Given the positive response to today’s event we certainly achieved more exposure for these high quality German confectionery brands and are in a much better place to assess opportunities for potential new entrants.”

The Irish audience was very engaged and provided lots of feedback after viewing and tasting all the German products. According to Shay Barber from Shelton Distributors, “it’s important for the German companies to know that tastes in the Irish market can vary considerably to those on the continent. However, on the other hand, Lidl and Aldi have been very successful in introducing a lot of these traditional German tastes into Ireland, so no doubt it will influence the Irish palette in the long run.” In addition, Ben Daniels from Ritter Sport revealed to the surprise of the audience that marzipan was by far their biggest seller in the UK and Irish market, going against a widely held assumption that it was not a popular taste in these markets.

The importance of tailoring the packaging to Irish preferences was highlighted by Lyndsey Clarke from Ampersand Sales: “It can be very obvious when a product is not tailored for the Irish and UK markets, for example when it has functional packaging which doesn’t always appeal here. There is definitely a requirement for German companies to ensure that they ensure their packaging appeals, not just the products inside, if they want to be successful in this market.”

“One of the trends on the Irish food market that is also starting to filter into the sweets sector is the demand for ‘free from’ products, be that free from sugar, fat, gluten, colourings, flavourings etc,” according to Miriam Tuomey, Sector Manager of the Food and Beverage Division with Bord Bia. She continues “More and more Irish consumers are thinking about their health when it comes to their purchasing decisions. Bord Bia’s Origin Green campaign, with its focus on natural sustainable products from Ireland, also takes this worldwide trend into consideration.”

On the back of this successful event, the German-Irish Chamber hope to organise a trade mission to Ireland from Germany in the near future, with the aim of establishing concrete partnerships between Irish distributors and German confectionery producers.

The German-Irish Chamber of Industry and Commerce was also represented at the Food & Hospitality Ireland Food Fair 2015 on the 16th and 17th of September to promote their activities in the food and agriculture sectors.