Oktoberfest 2019: Germany’s influence on food and drink around the world

September 18, 2019
4 min read

From its origins celebrating the marriage of Crown Prince Ludwig in 1810 in Bavaria, Oktoberfest has become a global phenomenon celebrated around the world – from Brazil to the US to China. 

As the two-week-long festivities get set to start this Saturday (21st September), we’re taking advantage of the rising global popularity of Oktoberfest as an opportunity to examine how Germany’s influence on food and drink stretches beyond its borders to the rest of Europe, Asia and the Americas.

It’s all about the beer

Oktoberfest is synonymous with German beer, and this spotlight helps to raise its profile and appeal to a global audience.

German wheat beer could appeal to Chinese adults who are drinking less, but better quality alcoholic drinks. Wheat and craft beer are among the beer styles with the highest rates of acceptance among Chinese beer drinkers, with more than half saying they’ve tried and liked them, while over a fifth of them haven’t tried wheat beer/white beer but say they’re interested in trying them.  Imported wheat beer fits with consumer preferences for premium beer brands.

Oettinger’s repackaged naturally cloudy wheat beer is manufactured in Germany and exported to China. It is an unfiltered product brewed according to the German purity law, that limits ingredients used in beer production to water, barley, hops and yeast. 

Oettinger Wheat Beer

Meanwhile in Thailand, Reeper B from Hamburg exports German white beer featuring an illustration of an iconic Reeperbahn girl. 

Reeper B.

And not to be outdone in the very German stereotyping imagery stakes, German brewer Denninghoffs’s Hofjäger ‘Original German Wheat Beer’ is available in Brazil.

Hofjäger Beer

‘Meating’ expectations

Another staple of the Oktoberfest experience are processed meats such as German sausages. Although Germany is famous for its sausages and meat, these products are more challenging to export. While products made in Germany can be readily exported to other European countries, more far flung destinations have developed products made locally to a German style or recipe.

Bunz Salchicha Aleman Bratwursts (German Bratwurst Sausages) are on sale in Ecuador, featuring the colours of the German flag. They’re made from pure pork meat and the 625g pack contains four sausages.

Bunz German Sausages

The Thai German Meat Product Company in Thailand is a joint venture between the Thai Sausage Co. Ltd and Schaefer Fleischwaren GmbH from Germany. Its Chicken Farmer Sausages prominently feature the flag on packaging and are said to be made from an authentic German recipe.

Thai German Meat Products

Relishing German condiments

Providing a perfect complement to bratwursts or other types of meats, we’re also seeing German condiments launched around the world. In the US, for example, Hengstenberg BBQ Kraut by Mildessa Spicy and Smoky Flavour Sauerkraut is a mild cooked and spiced sauerkraut in barbecue sauce with a spicy and smoky flavour. The product is said to be great for burgers, hot dogs, brats and spare ribs:

Hengstenberg BBQ Kraut


And staying in the US, what could be more convenient than a squeezable bottle of sauerkraut?

Sauerfrau Sauerkraut

Credit: https://sauerfrau.com/

This option from Sauer Frau – provides an “Old World family recipe of finely cut fresh cabbage that’s fermented to perfection…to adorn your favourite brat or sandwich”.

Low/no alcohol German beer – the next export opportunity?

Although the product examples identified above show how traditional German cuisine appeals to international audiences, the opportunities for connecting with contemporary German consumers are far removed from such stereotypes.

While German beer is world-renowned, the consumption of non-traditional beer with a lower or no alcohol content is increasing in Germany. While total retail beer sales by volume increased by only 2% between 2016-2018 in Germany, light/no/low alcohol beer grew by an impressive 18% over the same period, to take an 8% share.

This is underpinned by strong consumer demand for such variants: 18% of German beer buyers say that low/no alcohol content (defined as ABV of 3.5% or less) is one of their most important choice factors when buying these drinks in stores or online. This could be the result of many German beer buyers (31%) agreeing that lower alcohol beer is better for your health than standard beer. This is especially the case with younger consumers, with 42% of 16-24 year-olds agreeing with this sentiment.

This suggests an opportunity for more new product development in German beer, with the potential for German low or no alcohol products being successfully exported to overseas markets as well.

Annika Janicke
Annika Janicke

Annika Janicke is a Research Analyst and experienced food scientist, monitoring the market drivers of the German food and drink industry and identifying trends and opportunities across a number of food categories.

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