Over the past year the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) between the European Union and the United States has been at the centre of heated discussions in Germany. While supporters argue the TTIP will make it easier and more fair for businesses to export, import and invest overseas, opponents believe the treaty will weaken food safety laws and environmental legislation, leading to a flood of genetically-modified foods treated with pesticides and growth hormones.

As outlined in Mintel’s 2016 Consumer Trend ‘Pond Filter’, opposition to TTIP is particularly high in Germany. Besides overarching concerns regarding the transparency of negotiations, the differing regulatory standards are a major issue of dispute. While a company has to prove that a substance is safe before it can be used as an ingredient in Europe, any substance can be used until it’s proven unsafe in the US.

Genetically modified foods, widespread in the US market, is the most controversial TTIP related subject in Germany. Mintel research found over one third (36%) of German consumers would never buy food that has been genetically modified, with agreement highest among older demographics, peaking at half of those 55+. That opposition is also widely shared among Germany’s neighbours in France, Italy, Spain, and Poland. What’s more, around two thirds of German consumers say they are currently concerned about how safe it is to eat fruit and vegetables, while over half of Germans believe it’s worth paying more for locally grown vegetables.

“Sausage row” raising tempers

Another major concern over TTIP is the protection of treasured regional German specialities, such as Nuremberg sausages, Black Forest ham or Bavarian beer. If trade barriers are lifted, US manufacturers would be allowed to produce such products. The European Commission tried calming the debate, saying that geographically protected food names would not be watered down. Nevertheless, critics still fear that TTIP will turn out to be a disadvantage for the German “mittelstand” (small and medium-sized enterprises) with its many regional specialties, of which the majority are not formally protected.

Two out of five Germans are willing to pay more for milk from specific geographical areas

Yet, TTIP also offers huge opportunities for the development of regional concepts in Germany. Regionality is already a booming trend in the country, playing a significant role as a kind of antithesis to mass production and reaping the attention of consumers who are attracted by perceived freshness, quality and authenticity. Products “with origin” are gaining traction across categories, in particular in fresh food sectors. According to Mintel research, more than half of Germans say regionality is an important factor when buying meat or seafood, while almost two out of five Germans are willing to pay more for milk from specific geographical areas.

Should TTIP pass next year, the treaty might result in a relaxation of standards in European supermarkets, making the shopping experience more confusing for consumers. Therefore, transparency in new products will be more important than ever, while GMO-free claims and regional origin will take on greater significance in Europe.

The full copy of Mintel’s Five Key European Consumer Trends for 2016, including a section on original product designs and concepts, is available to download FREE here.

Julia Buech is a Food and Drink Analyst at Mintel. She specialises in delivering insights on issues affecting the German food and drink market, providing analysis across a range of food and drink categories. Previously Trend & Innovation Consultant at Mintel, Julia was responsible for providing tailored product innovation analysis and client support primarily to Mintel’s German speaking clients.

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