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My-Retail Trumps Thrift in Berlin

February 2014

By A.L. Kruse, Berlin

Germany is the home of Aldi and Lidl, the two retail chains that practically invented the hard discounter segment. Germans are used to buying good quality foods at rock-bottom prices, and for years price was the single biggest purchase criteria. With the advent of Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability (LOHAS), a movement that is especially prevalent in Berlin, sustainable/organic consumption has become a key concern.

And over the past couple of years this shift in values has been accompanied by a trend towards old vegetable variants. Variety and tradition are more important than industrial monoculture, and many consumers now actively search out traditional or rare tomato, salad or root vegetable species.They order blue or red potatoes, round zucchinis or purple radishes through online shops, like Tartuffli’s, or visit a store like Berlin-Schöneberg’s Apfelgalerie, which specializes in seasonal and rare apple variants. A few years ago, the first yellow tomatoes appeared in German supermarkets. Initially regarded with suspicion-- some consumers thought these were genetically engineered - yellow cherry tomatoes are now a staple in of any supermarket fresh produce section. 

Cooking as a social activity with friends is a big trend in Germany. Buying expensive ingredients and preparing exotic dishes is especially popular in Berlin, with its international, LOHAS-inspired demographic. However, faced with today’s hectic urban lifestyle, not everyone has time to make a marinade from scratch or buy 25 different spices for a single dish. And whilst consumers still want to cook themselves, they also want things to be easy.

Enter Kochhaus, a store chain that was founded 2010 in Berlin’s Schöneberg district. The company’s retail concept combines several megatrends-- convenience, simplicity and creativity-- and was an immediate success. Customers can chose between different German and international dishes and desserts, and purchase all the necessary ingredients at the same time. Each dish is presented on an individual table with a detailed recipe leaflet and cooking instructions, and all ingredients in the right quantities for two or four people - 2 grams of cumin, for example, or 8 cocktail tomatoes, 50ml of balsamic vinegar, 2 cloves of garlic, or 100 grams of rice. Every week, Kochhaus come up with new recipe ideas, which ensures repeat customers.

Another shift in consumer values over the past few years has been the trend towards product personalization. Instead of eating mainstream cereal or chocolate brands owned by international retail giants, or wearing the same perfume like every other person they meet on the street, customers want something special, created just for them.

As a result, product mass customization has become a massive retail trend in Germany. There are several Berlin-based companies that do this with great success. Internet start-up MyMuesli, for example, allows customers to create their own cereal mixture from more than 80 organic ingredients. Not only was MyMuesli successful right off the bat, the company is now retailing some of its products in German supermarkets and has so far opened ten retail stores in different German cities.

MyParfum, another Berlin start-up offers a very similar product. Customers can create their own fragrance online, selecting from different perfume notes and flacon types. In late 2013, MyParfum opened its first Berlin showroom. 

Retail & Dining
Food & Drink
Fashion & Style
Belrin Foodies love yellow tomato varities
Grasse is at your fingetips at My Parfum
Berlin's Kochaus, mixing cuisine experimentation with practicality

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